It's been almost two months since the Government imposed its UK-wide lockdown. And yesterday evening (10 May), PM Boris Johnson addressed the nation to outline the Government’s phased plan to ease lockdown measures.
Johnson thanked the nation for following the rules over the past couple of months, “to defeat the coronavirus”, and preventing “what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst-case scenario was half a million fatalities”. Though, he also acknowledged that the death toll has been “tragic”.
In his address to the nation he said that, “the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down”, and “that it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike”. He followed this with his rather controversial new message – ”We must stay alert”.
Speaking of “the shuttered shops”, as well as “abandoned businesses” and “darkened pubs and restaurants”, Johnson said he wanted to provide “the first sketch of a road map for reopening society” – a conditional plan, that first required the country to be able to satisfy the five tests:
- We must protect our NHS.
- We must see sustained falls in the death rate.
- We must see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection.
- We must sort out our challenges in getting enough PPE to the people who need it.
- And last, we must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease - the R - back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few
However, measures have been modified:
- Employees are still expected to work from home if they can, but anyone who can’t work from home (e.g. those in construction or manufacturing), should be actively encouraged to go to work.
- Public transport should be avoided if at all possible to maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.
- New guidance for employers to make workplaces Covid-secure have been established.
- From this Wednesday, people are encouraged to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise.
- People will no longer be penalised for sitting in their local park, and we can now drive to other destinations. But exercise must still only be undertaken with members of your own household.
- The rules on social distancing must be obeyed and fines for breaking them would be increased to enforce them.
The PM said that the Government would continue to monitor the progress that the nation is making, with further modifications to be announced in the next few weeks if the nation begins to fulfil the conditions laid out above.
Johnson also announced some of the details for ‘step two’ of the Government’s phased plan to lift lockdown measures. He said this part of the plan would begin to be rolled out at the earliest by June 1 – after half-term. Step two would see the phased reopening of shops, as well as primary pupils returning to school, in stages.
Johnson has said that detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools and shops and on transport will soon be available.
According to Johnson, 'step three' would be rolled out at the earliest by July, and is subject to all the conditions outlined, as well as further scientific advice. If and only if the numbers support it, Johnson has said that the Government hopes to be able to re-open at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.
Over the next two months, modifications to lockdown measures would be driven by science, data and public health.
Meanwhile, to prevent re-infection from abroad, people coming into this country by air, would be quarantined.
Johnson closed his speech with: “We have a route, and we have a plan, and everyone in government has the all-consuming pressure and challenge to save lives, restore livelihoods and gradually restore the freedoms that we need.