Norfolk and Waveney respond to PM's road map announcement

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The government's plans to reopen the country has given "clarity" says council leaders as Norfolk and Waveney responds to the prime minister's road map announcement.

Boris Johnson set out the government's plans to ease restrictions for life in the UK to return to normal over the next few months

The first measures will begin from March 8, with further steps announced "at least five weeks" after the current phase, with an announcement at least seven days in advance.

The plan is set out in four steps with the aim to lift all social measures at the earliest of June 21, subject to meeting the government's four tests.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, Norfolk County Council leader, said the plan offered clarity following the announcement.

He said: "I welcome the PM's roadmap for giving us clarity on how lockdown can be eased, in stages, based on the data.

"Covid figures in Norfolk are going down but we are not complacent and want to ensure that this progress is maintained as lockdown eases.

“We will support schools in making the preparations they need to ensure children can return from the 8th of March. We will make decisions on our other services in due course and will update you when we can."

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Norwich City Council, tweeted: "What's clear from the PM's statement is the crucial role local government will play in the country coming out of lockdown.

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"Contact tracing, community testing, responding to local outbreaks - all delivered by councils. I hope the Chancellor recognises this in next week's Budget."

Conservative MP Brandon Lewis tweeted his support also.

For thousands of people classed as clinically and extremely vulnerable, the road map advices them to stay shielding until March 31.

Norwich author Laura James, who has been shielding during the pandemic, has spoken up about her fath

Laura James, is an author and has been shielding during the pandemic. She has said she is excited at the approved vaccine news. Picture: Tim James - Credit: Archant

Author Laura James, from Reepham, said she will continue to take a day at a time, and easing restrictions was a difficult balancing act of keeping cases low when many people were suffering in their physical and mental health.

She said: "In January, I have really been feeling it. We're all exhausted and nothing left to give.

"If being able to meet someone outside for a coffee on a bench is something people can do that's great I think the world will feel a bit happier.

"I want to be able to go out and eat at restaurants and eat something I didn't have to cook.

The writer said the government had made mistakes and said it was wise to be cautious.

Mrs James added: "We have heard it will normal by Easter, Christmas, it will be 12 weeks. We should take what nice bits are coming 

"My daughter was coming home for Christmas and I was really excited by it, when London went into Tier 4 it was my lowest point, it broke me."

Ruth Davies and family

Ruth Davies is a mum of four, she shared her reaction to the road map. - Credit: Ruth Davies

Mum-of-four Ruth Davies, writer of the Rock'n'Roller Baby blog, said homeschooling during the recent lockdown had felt harder due to the weather on both adults and children and the reopening of classrooms to all pupils gave children the social package only schools could offer.

She said: "Opening schools as a priority over everything else will allow us to really see the effects on the virus caused by children being there and if the predictions are right, if the repercussions to the numbers are negligible, then we are finally winning against this. Children will be so relieved to have this normality restored and parents can breathe again too. It's not about us being together 24/7, that's not been the issue, it's about no one being able to study or impart knowledge properly - it just doesn't work.

"Likewise the phased return to social gathering is very welcome. Slowly, slowly catches the monkey so waiting until the end of March before we can see another family, in our case this will be extended family, is fine. It gives us a dangling carrot and after weeks and months with nothing much to look forward to this is just what families need: Each other, or the promise of it at least.

To be honest I'm not bothered about going to pubs and restaurants, watching sporting events or going on holiday abroad. Yes it would be nice but these things can wait in favour of looking after mental health by introducing real life on a need by need basis. I feel for kids, teens, young adults and singles the most in all this. Their lives have stood still, now they need to be for living - thank goodness it's in the air now."

The chief executive of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership said the news gave businesses certainty but there were still many difficult months ahead and further support was needed from the government.

Chris Starkie said: “Keeping on top of data, and setting out very clearly the four conditions which need to be met at each stage, will hopefully help businesses to plan ahead.

“However there will still be many difficult months to come, so it is critical that the furlough scheme and targeted financial help continues to be made available for those businesses who remain closed or operating under restrictions.

“Like everyone, we hope that this is the last lockdown our businesses will have to face but we understand that keeping this virus under control, particularly while the nationwide vaccine roll-out is progressing at such pace, has to be the focus.

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