Team Lopez – Yesterday, the Prime Minister outlined the roadmap that will guide us cautiously away from the national restrictions announced to protest us from COVID-19. Attached at the bottom of this article is a letter sent from the Prime Minister with more in-depth context to the Government’s roadmap. The full guidance can also be found online - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021
The measures announced will apply in England, but the Government is working closely with the Devolved Administrations who are setting out similar plans.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that there is no credible road to a Zero COVID Britain or a Zero COVID World and we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life-chances of children. That is why the roadmap is cautious but also irreversible.
As more of us are inoculated, the protection afforded by the vaccines will gradually replace the current restrictions. Restrictions across England will be eased at the same time, and will be driven by the evidence, with outdoor activity prioritised as the best way to restore freedoms while minimising the risk of transmission. At every stage, the decisions will be led by data, not dates, and subjected to four tests. These tests are:
- That the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- That evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
- That infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- That our assessment of the risks if not fundamentally changed by new variants of COVID that cause concern.
Before taking each step, the Government will review the data against these tests. As it takes at least four weeks for the data to reflect the impact of changes in restrictions, and the Government wants to give businesses a week’s notice before each change, there will be at least five weeks between each step.
From 8 March:
- Pupils and students in all schools and further education settings can safely return to face to face education – supported by the introduction of twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils while families and childcare bubbles will also be encouraged to get regularly tested.
- Breakfast and afterschool clubs can also reopen – and other activities, including sport, can restart where necessary to help parents work. Students on university courses requiring practical teaching, specialist facilities or onsite assessments will also return, but all others will need to continue learning online, and the Government will review the options for when they can return by the end of the Easter holidays.
- People will also be able to meet with one person from outside their household for outdoor recreation – such as coffee on a bench or a picnic in the park – in addition to exercise. But the Government advises the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to shield until at least the end of March.
- Every care home resident will be able to nominate a named visitor – and will be able to see them regularly provided they are tested and wear PPE.
From 29 March:
- It will become possible to meet up in limited numbers outdoors – so the rule of six will return outdoors, including in private gardens, and outdoor meetings of two households will also be permitted on the same basis.
- Outdoor sports facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will be able to reopen and formally organised outdoor sports will resume, subject to guidance.
- People will no longer be legally required to stay at home from this point – but many lockdown restrictions will stay in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise travel wherever possible.
- Holidays abroad will still be prohibited.
Step Two – No earlier than 12 April
- Non-essential retail will reopen – personal care, including hairdressers and nail salons, indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and self-contained accommodation will reopen, but only for use by individuals or household groups.
- The Government will begin to reopen – pubs and restaurants outdoors, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas, as will public libraries and community centres.
Step Three – No earlier than 17 May
- Most restrictions on meeting outdoors will be lifted – subject to a limit of thirty.
- You will be able to see friends and family indoors – subject to the rule of six or the meeting of two households.
- The Government will also reopen – pubs and restaurants indoors, along with cinemas and children’s play areas, hotels, hostels, and B&Bs. Theatres and concert halls will open their doors, and the turnstiles of our sports stadia will rotate once again, subject in all cases to capacity limits depending on the size of the venue.
Step Four – No earlier than 21 June
- With appropriate mitigations, the Government aims to remove all legal limits on social contact and on weddings and other life events – the Government aims to reopen nightclubs, and enable large events such as theatre performances above the limits of Step 3, potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection.
The Government acknowledges that the journey back to normality will be subject to resolving some key questions and to do this it will conduct four reviews:
- One will assess how long we need to maintain social distancing and face masks. This will also inform the guidance on working from home, which should continue wherever possible until this review is complete.
- A second will consider the resumption of international travel which is vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation.
- A successor to the Global Travel Taskforce will report by 12 April so people can plan for the summer.
- The third will consider the potential role of COVID-status certification in helping venues to open safely, but mindful of the many concerns surrounding exclusion, discrimination and privacy.
- And the fourth will look at the safe return of major events.
The Government will continue to do whatever is takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK. The Chancellor will set out financial support in the Budget on Wednesday 3 March.
We must remain alert to the constant mutations of the virus. Next month, the Government will publish an updated plan for responding to local outbreaks, with a toolkit of measures to address variants of concern, including surge PCR testing and enhanced contact tracing. The Government cannot rule out re-imposing restrictions at local or regional level if evidence suggests they are necessary to contain or suppress a new variant which escapes the vaccines.
The vaccination programme has dramatically changed the odds in our favour. As the Prime Minister confirms in his letter, the end really is in sight and a wretched year will give way to a spring and summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.