We have now vaccinated over 20 million people, a huge achievement by any measure. It’s worth recalling that there was much scepticism globally that we would even find a vaccine by the end of 2020 and yet we are now in a position where the Government has said every UK adult will be offered one by the end of July.
It’s thanks to fantastic work by so many, including our scientists, our NHS staff, all the volunteers, the Vaccines Task Force (unfairly maligned a few months ago; criticisms not heard now) and the Government. I know some may not want to credit the Government but you can’t give it total responsibility when something goes wrong and not give it any responsibility when something goes right. You only have to glance at other countries to see that the decisions Governments make regarding vaccines affects how quickly people receive them.
Alongside this we have the ‘Road map’ for the removal of all restrictions by 21st June. As ever with this pandemic, some people think the proposals will reopen things too fast and others think it will reopen them too slow. I think it is a careful balance between recognising that we all want to return to our normal lives but not wanting to go so quickly that we end up in another lockdown.
Subject to continued progress with the vaccine roll-out, infection rates and there being no new variants the vaccine doesn’t work on, the 29th March will see the ‘rule of 6’ for us to meet outside return, together with outdoor sport and leisure activities for children and adults. On the 12th April all retail will reopen, together with libraries, indoor facilities such as gyms and weddings involving up to 15 people can resume.
On the 17th May, subject to a review, we will be able to meet as a group of 6 indoors and travel internationally. All indoor hospitality can open and we’ll see the return of live events with limited audiences. Then on the 21st June, all restrictions will have been lifted but measures such as social distancing and face masks may still be encouraged.
I am however pleased that before all of this, from 8th March, all children and young people will return to school. Although unavoidable, children being at home has had a profound impact both on their academic progress and their mental health. The Government is allocating large amounts of money to support their return which is welcome. My personal view is that repairing the damage to children and young people’s prospects may well take longer than both the economic recovery and clearing the waiting lists for NHS treatments that couldn’t take place due to Covid.