Today we begin Step 1 of the Government’s plan for lifting the restrictions it has imposed to fight the spread of Coronavirus. I summarise here what will happen in each of Steps 1-3 to hopefully answer some of your key questions following the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on Sunday.
As of today, you should continue to work at home if you can, but if you can’t, you should travel to work ideally by cycling, walking or driving instead of by bus or train, so as to limit your exposure to others. The Government is providing more funding to widen pavements and create ‘pop-up cycle lanes’ to support this. If you use public transport, ensure you keep to the social distancing rules.
You should aim to wear a homemade face covering – not the masks that our healthcare workers wear – when you are in shops or indoor spaces. The main purpose of the face cover is to protect others if you have the virus but are not yet aware of it.
You can now spend more time outdoors, including with a maximum of one person who is not from your household, as long as you keep to social distancing rules and good hand hygiene. You can have a picnic, sunbathe, fish and go to garden centres. You can drive as far as you wish to an outdoor space. Those over 70, with specific chronic pre-existing conditions or who are pregnant should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to stay within their homes.
The Government hopes to begin Step 2 on 1st June. It hopes this will include a phased return for schools, including for Reception age and Years 1 and 6. It wants to see a phased return of non-essential retail here. Cultural and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors for broadcast on television. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been asked to examine whether we can socialise with another household at this point and to explore whether small weddings can start to take place.
No earlier than the 4th July, the Government hopes Step 3 can begin. Here it wants to open at least some of the businesses still closed, such as hairdressers, pubs and cinemas, as long as they can adhere to the Government’s guidelines about how they should operate.
All of this is of course subject to progress with the virus going in the right direction and could be postponed if it does not. I know how challenging lockdown has been for all of us but I hope we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.