Nine key questions on lockdown answered as three-week review nears

Police officers in Cromer making sure the public are keeping to social distancing guidelines Picture

Police officers in Cromer making sure the public are keeping to social distancing guidelines Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

As the Easter bank holiday weekend approaches, what are the key social distancing issues which need to be considered and how much longer will lockdown last?

As the country continues into the third week of lockdown to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 6,000 lives in the UK in the past month, authorities are urging patience from the general public.

With social distancing measures in place, self-isolation required for the vulnerable, many businesses closed and millions of workers furloughed, it’s proving a testing time for all.

As the Easter bank holiday weekend approaches, when temperatures are predicted to push 20C and little rain is forecast, we’ve answered some key queries on lockdown.

There should be no scenes such as this on Gorleston beach during the coronavirus lockdown Picture: J

There should be no scenes such as this on Gorleston beach during the coronavirus lockdown Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

- What are the latest Covid-19 figures in the UK?

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As of 9am on Wednesday, 266,694 tests have taken place across the UK, with 14,006 tests carried out on Tuesday. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

A total of 213,181 people have been tested, with 55,242 testing positive, not including figures for Northern Ireland.

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As of 5pm on Wednesday, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 6,159 have died. This does not include deaths in the community, such as in care homes.

Locally, confirmed cases in Norfolk stand at 341 and there have been 68 deaths in the county’s hospitals.

- When can I leave the house?

Government guidelines state that leaving the house is allowed for “very limited” purposes, described as...

Gatherings of more than two people are currently banned in public places Picture: Antony Kelly

Gatherings of more than two people are currently banned in public places Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHI

Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.

One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.

Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.

Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.

- Can I visit friends or family?

No. To stop the spread of the virus, people should not be meeting up with people who they do not live with and when in public should be keeping to social distancing guidelines of two metres, as well as following hygiene guidelines such as covering coughs and sneezes.

Phone and video calls are encouraged, while those helping the elderly or vulnerable should be dropping shopping or medication at the doorstep and keeping their distance.

People are allowed to leave their home for one form of exercise per day Picture: Antony Kelly

People are allowed to leave their home for one form of exercise per day Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

Inviting loved ones round for a barbecue is also not allowed.

- Can I travel for exercise?

Government advice is to stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible, to avoid unnecessary travel - with many national parks now closed as part of safety measures.

Official guidance states: “You can still go to the park for outdoor exercise once a day but only by yourself or within your household, not in groups.

“We ask you to keep two metres apart from others outside your household at all times when outdoors.”

- What about sunbathing in the park?

With warm weather seeing crowds broken up in parks by police around the country, people are being reminded that gatherings of more than two people in public spaces have been temporarily banned.

Government advice states: “Communal places within parks such as sports courts, playgrounds and outdoor gyms have been closed to protect everyone’s health.

“We ask that households use parks responsibly and keep two metres apart from others at all times.

“Unless you are with members of your household, gatherings of more than two people in parks and other public spaces have been banned. The police have the powers to disperse gatherings and issue fines if necessary.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that public sunbathing is not allowed, while Norwich Police said on Tuesday they had been called to “too many” breaches of the rules, including to people sunbathing in Chapelfield Gardens.

And when asked for clarification on whether people could sunbathe if they practised social distancing, Mr Hancock reiterated that, even if so, public sunbathing was against the rules.

- Can I travel elsewhere in the country?

Only essential travel is allowed, with government guidance stressing that travelling to second homes or holiday premises is not permitted.

Official guidance states: “Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays.

“People must remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”

- Have people adhered to lockdown?

People flouting social distancing guidelines can be fined or arrested under new powers given to police to help fight the spread of Covid-19, with fines starting at £60 and doubling after each offence.

National figures have not yet been published but officers have been visible in communities all over the country. The Police Federation initially had to provide clear guidance for officers due to public outcry over guidelines being enforced too strongly initially.

Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, said: “I am confident the overwhelming majority of people already understand the gravity of the situation we face.

“There will be a small number who do not and we will engage with them, explain to them and encourage them to go home. If they refuse to do the right thing we are fully prepared to use these new powers.”

- Have there been any arrests under new police powers in Norfolk?

Norfolk Constabulary took more than 350 calls relating to coronavirus over the weekend, giving out 109 warnings and issuing 16 court summons, with people sunbathing moved on and incidents such as a house party being broken up.

Ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend, police chiefs have urged the public to not visit family and friends in order to “protect the NHS and save lives”.

On Saturday, two people were charged under the new coronavirus powers after reports of a theft from a food delivery van and threats to the driver.

They were released on bail to appear before Norwich Magistrates’ Court on May 26.

- When will lockdown end?

While there had been hopes lockdown would be reviewed on Monday, on the three-week mark, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Wednesday that the review would not take place as scheduled.

The government has not specified when it will now take place.

Health minister Edward Argar has made clear now is not the time to start easing the restrictions.

“We need to start seeing the numbers coming down and that’s when you’re in the negative,” he told BBC Breakfast. “That’s when you have a sense when that’s sustained over a period of time, that you can see it coming out of that.

“We’re not there yet and I don’t exactly know when we will be. The scientists will tell us that they are constantly modelling the data and they’re constantly looking at those stats.”

It followed a similar warning on Tuesday from foreign secretary Dominic Raab - who is deputising during prime minister Boris Johnson’s absence for Covid-19 hospital treatment - who said ministers first need to see evidence that lockdown measures are working.

The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the figures “could be moving in the right direction”, but suggested they need another “week or so” before they could be sure.

If you have any further questions, go to the government’s website.

For more on how coronavirus is affecting our region, join our Facebook page Norfolk Coronavirus Updates.

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