Months or weeks? How long will lockdown last and what will extension mean for you?
- Credit: Archant
This week will see the government announce whether to extend or ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions, a decision eagerly anticipated not just by families confined to home but also all sectors of business and public life.
The social and economic effects of lockdown are accumulating. But there is no set date for it to end.
When the prime minister put the UK into lockdown on March 24 he said the measures would be reviewed every three weeks, but the government has not set out what these reviews will be measured on.
The first review is set to be completed by April 16. However, it is very unlikely that the lockdown will be lifted. Reports have suggested it will be extended for another three weeks, with others suggesting a month.
MORE: Tough times feared for tourism industry as lockdown continuesEarlier this week Dominic Raab, covering for the hospitalised prime minister, said there is a “long way” for the UK to go before the restrictions can be lifted.
He said the government was due to receive advice from the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) before making any decisions.
“We don’t expect to make any changes to the measures currently in place at that point and we won’t until we’re confident, as confident as we realistically can be, that any such changes can be safely made,” he added.
The government is currently exploring two ways that could help to ease the lockdown: increasing testing and contact tracing.
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Officials plan to be completing 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day by the end of April, while the NHS has announced an app that will alert people if they have been in close proximity to someone infected with coronavirus.
It is also possible that lockdown restrictions will be lifted at different times in different places around the UK.
MORE: When will it be time to relax lockdown measures?Officials may look at lifting some movement restrictions in rural areas like Norfolk before dealing with areas that have large populations and high numbers of cases.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “I expect it will more likely be around the end of May or the beginning of June that we can seriously think of relaxing measures and even then it would need to be a phased approach.”
So what will more lockdown mean for...
Some of Norfolk’s biggest events have already been scrapped including most symbolically the Royal Norfolk Show, on July 1 to 2, cancelled for only the second time in its peacetime history. The show attracts around 85,000 visitors and is estimated to contribute around £20m to the local economy.
The prospect of on-going restrictions has also seen cancellation of the Lord Mayor’s Celebrations on July 3 to 5, one of the biggest weekends the Norwich calendar, and Sandringham Flower Show on July 29.
Were restrictions on mass gatherings not to be lifted before the summer, doubt would fall on events like the Old Buckenham Air Show on August 1 to 2. A spokesman for the show said that they are currently monitoring developments but they don’t plan to amend or cancel the event yet.
Music festivals and live music performances have been thrown into chaos, and any extension of lockdown is likely to bring many more cancellations or postponements.
Though not officially confirmed The Killers concert at Carrow Road on June 1, one of the most highly anticipated of the year, now looks likely to be postponed.
Let’s Rock Norwich in Earlham Park on May 23 has already been pushed back to September 26, though sister events Friday Night Live and Sunday Sessions remain on, though it is difficult to see them taking place in May. A spokesman said they were “exploring all options”.
Extending restrictions on mass gatherings into the summer also casts doubt on Westlife at Carrow Road on June 19; Little Mix at Holkham on July 18; Michael Buble at Blickling on July 28; and Tom Jones at Earlham Park on August 16.
Meanwhile Latitude Festival (July 16 to 19) has said they are monitoring the situation, but there are no plans yet to cancel.
Theatres and cinema
Stage curtains remain closed and screens dark with no real idea when live entertainment or films will return. Norwich Theatre Royal and Playhouse has postponed or cancelled shows up to June 3 with the hope that restrictions will be lifted by then. However experts have suggested that when lockdown is lifted events with large numbers of people in close proximity will be the last to restart. Prof Paul Hunter, from the UEA, said: “Maybe later down the line the option will be there to relax things, perhaps by allowing people to visit their loved ones but keeping restrictions on mass gatherings such as shows and concerts.”
Shops and restaurants
Across Europe, countries are at different stages of the coronavirus outbreak but some have already begun tentatively easing high street restrictions. In Italy, bookshops and clothing shops have re-opened on a trial basis.
Assuming lockdown is eased, the gradual opening of UK shops and stores would help struggling businesses, even if it came with strict limits on hours and customer numbers.
Pubs, bars and restaurants, which attract larger numbers and where it is more difficult to impose social distancing rules, are unlikely to open until later.
Lockdown has already had a huge impact on Norfolk’s tourism industry and resorts, attractions and operators will be desperate that, having already lost Easter trade, restrictions will be eased before the summer season.
Cromer Carnival, due to take place from August 15 to 21, a huge money spinner for the town, has already been cancelled for the first time in 50 years, however Sheringham Carnival (July 31-Aug 11) and Wells Carnival (July 31-Aug 9) still hope to go ahead.
Albert Jones, managing director at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, said the nightmare was losing the entire summer trade. He said: “I should think if we lose the whole summer it’d be absolutely disastrous for us - not just the Pleasure Beach but the whole borough.”
Government advice against all but non-essential travel abroad indefinitely remains in place, but Ait, the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said it still hopes UK travel will return in time for the summer. However that could change depending on whether, how and when restrictions are eased.
Holiday company Tui has said all holidays up to and including May 14, along with all Marella Cruise holidays up to and including May 31, will not go ahead, with other companies having similar cut-offs
Beyond that it is assumed holidays will go ahead as planned, suggesting flights will hopefully be running again by June. It is hoped government advice on lockdown restrictions will bring clarity for those who have booked for June who are currently in limbo.
There is no shortage of speculation about how, where and even whether the football season should resume. The campaign has been paused indefinitely until football is “safe and appropriate to resume”. Norwich City have nine games remaining. Premier League clubs will meet again on Friday to discuss the way forward. It has been suggested games may re-start in June but behind closed doors.
The financial impact on clubs could be huge, even more so further down the leagues. The National League - where King’s Lynn Town were lying second - have been asked by the league’s board to vote in favour of ending the season.
Schools across the UK closed on March 20 except for vulnerable children and those of key workers, while GCSEs and A Level exams have been cancelled. There has been no official guidance on when schools and colleges will reopen, but children are now returning to nurseries and schools in some other European countries.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said UK schools could potentially open around June 1. However it remains possible that they could remain shut until at least September 2020.