Please find below the latest Covid update issued tonight:
Following Saturday’s comprehensive update, here is a summary of the government’s announcement today for the cautious lifting of lockdown restrictions, aimed to help live with the virus given that there is no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain or a zero-Covid world.
The plan is to lift restrictions across England at the same time and at all times measuring against the following tests:
- Continued success of vaccine deployment programme, with the aim to offer a first dose to cohorts 5-9 by 15 April, and to all adults by end of July.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
The government is reviewing the Contain Framework and will publish this in March with revised approaches to deal with local variations in rates or new variants. There was also a further £400m announced for the Contain Management Fund for the Covid work that local authorities will need to continue doing as restrictions are gradually lifted.
The following steps are set out as the earliest possible date for these things to happen, with regular reviews that the tests are being met.
Step 1 part 1 – on 8 March
- All pupils and college students return fully. For a period, secondary school pupils and older will wear masks in classes.
- People can meet one other person outside for leisure activities, e.g. a coffee or picnic, not just for exercise. Children will still count towards this.
- Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor.
- The “stay at home” order will stay in place.
Step 1 part 2 – on 29 March
- Rule of six – or two households – can mix in public outdoor spaces and private gardens.
- Outdoor sport for children and adults will be allowed.
- The official stay at home order will end, but everyone will be encouraged to stay local.
- People will still be asked to work from home where possible.
- No overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.
Step 2 – no earlier than 12 April
- Reopening of:
- Non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, libraries and museums.
- Pubs (inc. beer gardens) and restaurants, but only for outdoor seated table service. No need to have a meal with alcohol.
- Settings inc. zoos and theme parks.
- Social contact rules will apply, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing remain.
- Gyms and pools, but people can only go alone or with their own household.
- Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities, but only for one household.
- Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.
- While it is not part of step 2, this is the earliest point after which the bulk of university students could know about the resumption of face-to-face classes. A review of this will take place at the end of the Easter holidays.
Step 3 – no earlier than 17 May
- Most mixing rules lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens. Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or two households.
- Indoor venues will reopen (pubs, restaurants, hotels, play centres and cinemas). The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.
- This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a review nearer the time.
- For sport:
- indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower;
- outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower.
- very large venues such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer.
- Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.
Step 4 – no earlier than 21 June
- All legal limits on mixing will be removed and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.
- There are likely to be changes to wider social distancing measures but this will be decided in a separate review.
Further information, including the roadmap’s publication, is available here.
All council services will work to implement any changes needed, whilst further planning is also taking place across the partnership on the plan for the rest of the year.
As we know from our own situation, whilst the vaccination rollout and this roadmap provide some optimism, we know that the threat remains substantial. It is anticipated that the virus will mutate, no vaccine can be 100% effective, and lifting lockdown will result in more cases and more hospitalisations, but government are trying to take a balanced approach with a cautious lifting of restrictions.
Four further reviews were also announced to inform the roadmap:
- International travel
- Masks and social distancing
- Covid certification
- Public transport