‘Freedom’ by 21 June: Johnson outlines roadmap

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced his long awaited roadmap, set to guide England “cautiously but irreversibly” out of the current lockdown restrictions. 

In his briefing from parliament, Mr Johnson outlined the four-stage plan which will see a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, beginning with the return of schools on 8 March. 

As levels of coronavirus infection are broadly similar across England, all parts of the country will experience changes at the same time. 

As with Nicola Sturgeon’s address last Wednesday, Mr Johnson stated his roadmap would be driven by “data, not dates”, meaning that each step will be subject to four tests before being met. 

These are:

  1. The success of the vaccine rollout
  2. The number of hospital admissions and deaths falling
  3. The amount of pressure on the NHS
  4. The impact of any variants

There will also be at least a five-week gap between each step to ensure the impact of each one is known before progressing to the next. 

Apart from schools returning, step one will see the return of childcare including breakfast clubs and further children’s activities, where necessary to enable parents to work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group. 

In addition, vulnerable children will be able to attend childcare and other children’s activities in all circumstances.

Whereas in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is delaying the return of older pupils, secondary school students will also be allowed back at the same time as primary school children. 

They will, however, be required to wear face coverings and be tested twice a week. 

Yet while school education may be seeing a greater return to normality, university students in England will have to wait until after Easter before they might be allowed back, unless they have practical work which necessitates them being on campus. 

Restrictions on socialising will loosen, allowing people to spend time in outdoor public spaces for recreation with a person outside their household, for example a drink or picnic. 

Moreover, with the success of the vaccine roll out in care homes, regular indoor visits by a single named visitor will be allowed for each resident. 

The 29  March will see the return of the rule of six and the end of the ‘Stay At Home’ message, although they should continue to work from home if possible and try not to travel. 

Step two will begin no earlier than 12 April and will see non-essential retail and hospitality in outdoor settings. 

Personal care establishments like hairdressers, will reopen along with outdoor settings such as zoos, self-catering holiday accommodation and campsites. 

Funerals will continue with up to 30 people and weddings with up to 15 people. 

Step three, no earlier than 17 May, will see the return of indoor hospitality, while most social contact outdoors will be allowed with a 30-person limit.

Stadia, theatres and concert halls are set to reopen to allow performances and sporting events to resume subject to capacity.

Finally, step four  will mark the end of legal limits on social contact no earlier than 21  June. 

Mr Johnson said that the government would hope for the reopening of “everything up to and including nightclubs.”

The road map will be accompanied by a series of four reviews assessing further ways of easing limits. 

These include whether vaccines and testing can reduce restrictions on social contact and events, as well as gauging the possibility of international travel. 

The government’s roadmap is set to be carried out with caution, but the Prime Minister stated that while there “is no credible route to a zero Covid Britain, or indeed a zero Covid world, we cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental well-being and the life chances of our children.”

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