On Tuesday 23 June the Prime Minister announced changes to come into effect on 4 July.
It is important to remember these steps are only possible because - despite the lifting of restrictions some weeks ago - the number of deaths and new cases of Covid-19 are continuing to fall, thanks to the sacrifices we have all made.
As a result of this progress, and the Chief Medical Officers' decision to downgrade the Covid Alert Level from 4 to 3, the Prime Minister has set out changes for England to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs.
The change to the alert level does not mean we have eradicated Covid-19, but that it is less prevalent in the community, meaning the activities listed below are considered to be safe, as long as everyone sticks to the distance guidance, keeps washing their hands, and wears a face covering on public transport or where social distancing may not be possible. It is also vital that we all continue to self-isolate if we have symptoms, seek a test, and co-operate with NHS Test and Trace.
Prime Minister has set out that from Saturday 4 July:
• Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines.
• Two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures and people can now enjoy staycations in England with the reopening of accommodation sites.
• Some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen in order to begin restoring the arts and cultural sector, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
• Following a review, the Prime Minister set out that where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission.
Keeping the virus under control:
• As we begin to reopen the economy, it’s important that we do not increase the risk of transmission which is why 'close proximity' venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will need to remain closed for now. The Government is continuing to work with these sectors to establish taskforces to help them to become COVID Secure and reopen as soon as possible.
• While the infection rate continues to fall, the Prime Minister has been clear that the public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines to keep coronavirus under control. The Government will keep all measures under constant review and will not hesitate to apply the handbrake, or reverse measures, should the virus begin to run out of control.
Yesterday, the Health Secretary and Deputy Chief Medical Officer explained that from 1 August, the present shielding programme for the extremely vulnerable will be paused, and the guidance altered from 6 July to enable more freedom for those people.
There is more information for those who are shielding HERE. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries outlined in detail exactly why she and her colleagues believe this is a safe course of action for those most vulnerable. She also outlined how people might be asked to shield again should there be a change in the alert level, and how that might be different to the shielding programme currently in place. You can watch the whole press conference, where she explains the changes HERE.
The restrictions we have all faced over the past few months have been the toughest curtailing of our freedoms since the Second World War. They were not put in place lightly and they are being relaxed cautiously. I do appreciate that some people may wonder why certain guidelines have been relaxed and not others. The Prime Minister explains this in his statement HERE.