On the 8th of March 2021, England started seeing a gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions that was imposed by the government on the 5th of January 2021. The roll-out of the Vaccinations began in December 2020, Covid vaccinations are currently being administered in the UK. Since the vaccinations began, about 28 million people in the UK have received their first dose. The UK is finally witnessing a gradual decline in the infection rate.
By 10 January, more than a third (34.6%) of people aged 80 and over in England had received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine, according to Public Health England (PHE). It takes two to three weeks for immunity to build after vaccination and then a further two to three weeks between a coronavirus infection and death from the virus so data from mid-February would provide the first indication that the vaccination programme was starting to have an effect.
Hospital admissions are falling in all age groups, presumably the effect of the current lockdown. The latest PHE data show hospital admissions (for the week to 14 February compared with the week to 7 February) falling faster for the 75-84-year-old age group than other adult age groups.
It is however not clear if the reduction in infection rate is solely because of the vaccination – bearing in mind that other measures – like the lockdown, wearing of masks, stricter travel requirements etc. had also been put in place.
Easing of Lockdown road map
The Government published a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and provide a route back to a more normal way of life. Each step to be assessed against four tests before restrictions ease, this started with the return of schools on 8 March.
Four tests for easing restrictions
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan
- Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying or needing hospital treatment
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
- New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions
The PM is clear that the decision on each stage will be based on data not dates, and government will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control.
The four-step Roadmap
March 8 was the day we took our 1st baby steps on our journey to lockdown freedom. Relieved parents happily ferried their excited children to school. A win-win for both parties I must add, everyone needs some time away from home, even children 😁. A twice-weekly rapid testing was introduced for secondary and college students in addition to regular testing for teachers. These measures were put in place to reduce infection.
There was also a slight easing in social contact. People were allowed to leave home for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble if they are eligible for one, or with one person from outside their household. Care home residents have also been allowed one regular visitor. Visitors will have to wear PPE and be tested before going into the care home, but the move will allow families to reconnect again
Step 1 part b
Step 1 of the roadmap has a part b which will come into effect on the 29th of March 2021.
From March 29 outdoor gatherings following the rule of six will also be allowed to resume. This will allow six people from different households or any number of people from just two households to meet outside or in a garden.
Outdoor sports activities such as tennis and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to resume, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
The ‘stay at home’ rule will also end on March 29, meaning people can travel to see friends and family. But people will still be told to work from home if they have been doing so.
Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons. Holidays abroad will not be allowed, given it will remain important to manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme. The government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel which will report on 12 April.
Step 2 will take effect from April 12 at the earliest. It will see the opening of non-essential shops and businesses reopening such as hairdressers. Pubs and restaurants will also be allowed to serve food and drink to guests outdoors.
Public buildings, including libraries and community centres. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups); as will most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas. Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.
Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors at Step 2. Customers are expected to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’). Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.
In the case of events, while funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.
Step three starts from the 17th of May
- People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors.
- Six people or two households can meet indoors. This will be kept under review whether it is safe to increase the number of people.
- Pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas
- Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4000 people or half-full (whichever is lower).
- Up to 30 people can attend weddings or other life events like christenings, bar mitzvahs.
- Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
- International leisure travel may resume
- Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart
Step 4 starts no earlier than 21 June.
- All legal limits on social contact will be removed
- No legal limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events
- Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen
There you have it. Please remember to keep to government guidelines by wearing your masks and maintaining your distance. Hopefully we’ll get out of this soon and go back to normal, well, as normal as we can get.