Roadmap met with cautious welcome
The Prime Minister has announced a 4-step plan to ease lockdown in England.
The news has been met with a cautious welcome by Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health. He said:
“While all of us look forward to a relaxation of the national regulations, it’s vital that we continue to exercise caution.
“COVID-19 is an extremely infectious virus, and is still very much present in the community. Cases in Devon have remained relatively low compared to elsewhere in the country and we do not want to see cases rising again.
“As restrictions start to ease, we must therefore remain absolutely resolute in adhering to the national public health measures – keeping our distance from those outside of our household or support bubble, wearing face coverings whenever indoors in a public place, and washing our hands regularly.”
You can read more about what our Leader and Cabinet Member responsible for schools said about the government’s roadmap out of lockdown on our News Centre.
What’s the plan?
The government’s roadmap, which has been published in full on their website, outlines four steps for easing restrictions. MPs will vote on it in late March.
All the changes will be England-wide with no return to regional tiers. The only exception could be localised efforts if a new variant of the virus is detected, for example additional testing.
Although there are dates given for each step, the government has warned that they are subject to change as the plan will be guided by data rather than dates, so some stages of reopening could be delayed.
Before proceeding to the next step, the government will examine the latest data to assess the impact of previous steps. This is why there is a minimum of five weeks between each step – four weeks to collect and assess data and then a week for people and businesses to prepare for the next step.
The decision to move to the next step will be assessed against four tests:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- The government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new COVID-19 variants of concern.
Step one, part one – Monday 8 March
- Schools open for everyone – all primary and secondary school pupils and college students will return to face-to-face teaching, with before and after-school clubs reopening.
Secondary school pupils and college students will receive twice-weekly COVID-19 testing and wear masks in class.
Higher Education students at English universities on practical courses can also return.
- Outdoor recreation – people can meet one other person from outside their household or support bubble for outdoor recreation such as a coffee or picnic on a park bench, in addition to exercise. (Children count towards this).
However, people identified as being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ are advised to continue shielding until the end of March.
- Care home visitors – care home residents will be able to nominate a named visitor who can see them regularly provided they are tested and wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Everyone should still stay at home as much as possible.
Step one, part two – Monday 29 March
- Outdoor gatherings – evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors, so from 29 March, when most schools start to break up for the Easter holidays, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either up to six people or two households, socially distanced, will be allowed.
- Outdoor sports – outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, can reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
The ‘stay at home’ order will end on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place.
Travel outside the local area is allowed, but people are encouraged not to go too far.
People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes.
Step two – no earlier than Monday 12 April
- Non-essential retail – non-essential shops and personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons can reopen.
- Outdoor hospitality – pubs and restaurants can reopen outdoor tables and beer gardens for households and groups of up to six people. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol and no curfew.
- Indoor leisure facilities – gyms and swimming pools will reopen, but only for people to use alone or with members of their household.
- Outdoor attractions – places like zoos and theme parks will reopen with social distancing rules and limits on outdoor mixing.
- Holidays – self-contained holiday accommodation (including campsites), where indoor facilities are not shared with others can reopen for individuals and household groups only.
- Public buildings – libraries and community centres can reopen with social distancing measures and no indoor mixing between households.
- Life events – up to 15 people can attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes.
Step three – no earlier than Monday 17 May
- Outdoor gatherings – most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted, although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
- Meeting indoors – the rule of six or two households will apply indoors, both in public places and at home.
- Hugging – the government will update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. But until this point, people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble.
- Indoor hospitality – pubs and restaurants will reopen their indoor areas. They will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, nor will there be a curfew, but customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated.
- Indoor entertainment – venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas can reopen.
- Holidays – the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs can open.
- Life events – up to 30 people can attend weddings, receptions, funerals, wakes and other life events such as bar mitzvahs and christenings.
- Exercise – indoor adult group sports and exercise classes can take place.
- Businesses reopen – most businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to reopen. In all sectors, COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and businesses may not cater for groups bigger than the legal limits. (30 outside and rule of six or two households inside)
- Large organised events – sporting events, concerts, theatres and conferences can go ahead with capacity limits.
Step four – no earlier than Monday 21 June
- Social contact – the government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact.
- Businesses – remaining businesses such as nightclubs can reopen.
- Life events – legal limits on the number of people attending life events such as weddings and funerals are lifted.
- Large events – restrictions on large events and performances eased.
- Holidays – international travel permitted.
As we move through each of these phases in the roadmap, we must all remember that COVID-19 remains a part of our lives.
For the time being, we are going to have to keep living our lives differently to keep ourselves and others safe.
For now…we must:
- Carry on with ‘hands, face, space’.
- Comply with the current lockdown restrictions.
- Get tested when needed.
- Get vaccinated when offered.
If we all continue to play our part, we will be that bit closer to a future that is more familiar. Carry on carrying on, and do it for Devon!
You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.