From face masks to hair salons - 9 things we’ve learnt from the lockdown exit plan
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
A 50-page blueprint detailing the country’s exit from coronavirus lockdown has shed light on next steps over the coming months.
On Sunday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson spoke to the nation in a televised statement to outline his plans for what happens next.
But with several key issues going unmentioned - including the use of face masks and when families can reunite - many accused Mr Johnson of raising more questions than he answered.
On Monday afternoon, the government’s full 50-page recovery strategy for lockdown was published, covering three phases.
The UK is leaving the first phase, in which it attempted to contain and mitigate the virus, and entering the second.
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So what have we learned from the coronavirus document?
• Will the easing and changing of restrictions vary from area to area?
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It’s already become clear that restrictions will be - and are already being - adjusted by devolved administrations at a different pace, with Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon saying the country will not use Mr Johnson’s new stay alert, control the virus slogan.
But questions had been raised over whether restrictions would be reintroduced, tightened or loosened in different areas of England depending on the virus’ rate of spread there.
In his speech on Sunday, Mr Johnson hinted it would be the case, saying the government’s new Covid Alert System would be able to detect local flare-ups.
But the document confirms it, and says: “Similarly in England, the government may adjust restrictions in some regions before others: A greater risk in Cornwall should not lead to disproportionate restrictions in Newcastle if the risk is lower.”
• Should we wear face masks?
Many had speculated that Mr Johnson would back the use of face masks in certain circumstances in his speech on Sunday.
Several countries, including France, have already mandated them, but the guidance so far in the UK has been that they have little impact.
But as people being to move more outside their “immediate household”, the advice has changed, with the document advising in favour of face coverings: “This increased mobility means the government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.”
It says face coverings are not the same as surgical or respirator face masks, and that face coverings should not be used by children under the age of two.
• How long will we be working from home?
Those in industries which cannot work from home, including construction, have been told they should be encouraged to go back to work from this week.
Those who can work from home, including many who are usually based in offices, have been told to stay at home.
The document says wherever possible, workers should continue to work from home “for the foreseeable future”.
It says sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open include food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific work in laboratories.
MORE: The prime minister’s briefing - what you need to know about lockdown rules• Can I see my family now?
There was confusion on Monday morning after foreign secretary Dominic Raab implied that people could see more than one member from another household, if they were outdoors or socially distancing.
The report has clarified this to say people can now spend time outdoors (rather than being limited to exercising once a day) if they:
• Do not meet up with more than one person from outside their household
• Stay two metres away from people
It also clarifies that people should only exercise with up to one person from outside your household - so team sports with people other than those you live with are not allowed.
Given the rule that people are now allowed to drive where they like to exercise, in theory it means a person could drive to exercise in a park and see a family member or friend while there, as long as they socially distance.
• When will sport and large events return?
The paper does not go into detail, but simply says that in its second phase of recovery, which will begin no earlier than June 1, the government may start “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.
• When will gyms and hair salons reopen?
Though there are of course no fixed dates for reopening, the paper says the reopening of place such as sports bars, beauty salons, hairdressers, cinemas and gyms may only happen “significantly later”, depending on the reduction in numbers of infections.
In the third phase, to begin no earlier than July 4, the government says it aims to open at least some of the remaining businesses, including hospitality, personal care and leisure facilities - but warns that some venues, which are “by design crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point”.
• Are reports of household ‘bubbles’ true?
There had been reports in the national press that, as the exit from lockdown continued, people would be allow to see others in so-called bubbles - one household mixing with another, for example, and nobody else, such as in New Zealand.
The paper says the government has asked the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) to examine whether, when and how it can “safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group”.
They say it would allow those who are isolated more social contact and reduce the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions, while also easing childcare issues.
The paper says the government is also examining how to enable people to gather in “slightly larger groups” to better facilitate small weddings.
• Which groups still need to be shielding?
The paper says those aged over 70, with specific pre-existing conditions (including liver disease and diabetes) and pregnant woman should continue to take “particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households”, but do not need to be shielded at all times.
Those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group are “strongly advised” to continue shielding until the end of June. The government says all those in this group will have been written to, but includes solid organ transplant recipients, people receiving chemotherapy and renal dialysis patients.
The government will continue to provide essential food to those unable to leave their home, and arrange volunteer support.
“The government is also aware that when – in time – other members of society return to aspects of their normal daily lives, the challenge for those being asked to shield may deepen,” the paper says.
MORE: Queues as some of Norfolk’s recycling centres reopen• What will happen for care homes?
Its plan says the government has been particularly concerned by the number of deaths in care homes.
Future steps include more work to protect residents of care homes, including offering testing for residents and staff in every care home for over-65s by June 6, increasing personal protective equipment (PPE), asking homes to reduce staff movement between homes, expanding the social care workforce and supporting care homes to take up video consultation approaches, including options for a virtual ward.
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