The February roadmap set out four steps to easing of coronavirus restrictions. The final step, was due to take place no earlier than 21 June, and the Prime Minister confirmed the date will be 19 July. England remains in Step 3 with some restrictions remaining on capacity and numbers are larger events.
Why do the legal limits on numbers remain?
The roadmap (which you can read again HERE) set out four tests for each stage of unlocking:
- Success of the vaccine programme
- Vaccines working well to reduce hospitalisations and deaths
- Infection rates not putting the NHS under pressure
- Risk assessment not changed by variants of concern
We know the vaccine programme is being delivered incredibly well, and today all those aged 23 and above are able to book their first dose. Those aged over 40 are able to re-book their second dose to create an 8-week gap between doses (instead of 12).
However, the new Delta variant is spreading faster than the third wave predicted in the roadmap. Cases are growing by around 64% each week. The average number of people being admitted to hospital in England has increased by 50% week on week and 61% in the North West.
We are in a race against the vaccine, and by giving ourselves four more weeks, we can really focus on ensuring more adults are fully vaccinated and offer the best possible protection to those most likely to need hospitalisation should they catch covid.
By Monday 19th July we will aim to have double jabbed around two thirds of the adult population including everyone over 50, all the vulnerable, all the frontline health and care workers and everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid-May.
What is the good news?
We now have incredibly positive real-world data on how effective both the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines are against even this new Delta variant.
According to Public Health England Data (see HERE), the effectiveness of the vaccines in preventing hospitalisation in the Delta variant is:
After 1 dose: Pfizer 94% effective, AstraZeneca 71% effective
After 2 doses: Pfizer 96% effective, AstraZeneca 92% effective
The data are incredibly encouraging and shows that for younger adults, receiving just one dose of Pfizer before being able to mix in larger numbers will make a huge difference in the pressure on the NHS. By 19th July ALL adults will have been offered their first dose.
What is changing on 21 June?
- Legal limits on the number of guests at weddings and wakes will lift from 21 June as planned. Instead of being limited to 30, venues will be limited instead by the number of people they can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place;
- A limited series of pilot events will take place to produce additional evidence on reopening events safely. Attendees will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. This will include some UEFA EURO 2020 matches at Wembley and a small number of other sports, arts and music performances;
- Care home residents will be able to nominate an essential care giver who will be able to visit the care home resident, even if the resident is isolating. In most cases, residents who go on a visit out of a care home will no longer need to isolate for 14 days when they return. Decisions on risk will be made following a risk assessment by the care home for each visit out.
- Out-of-school settings can organise domestic residential visits for children in consistent groups of up to 30 children. This replaces the current limit of 6 people or 2 households.
What is being delayed until 19 July?
The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday means venues such as nightclubs will remain closed, and there will still be capacity limits in place at large events (apart from those taking place in Government test events).
The delay also means the limit on the number of people you can meet indoors remains at 6 or two households, and the limit on people you can have in your garden/meet outdoors is still 30.
What about social distancing measures?
Removing social distancing measures were not a part of the Step 4 unlocking, but (as set out in February’s roadmap) the subject of a taskforce which is due to report ahead of Step 4 on a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission.
The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on 1m+, face masks and other measures may be lifted. The review will also inform guidance on working from home - people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete.
Social distancing is a useful tool in preventing transmission of covid, but it is incredibly damaging to so many businesses. The sooner we can safely remove these limits the better.
What about support for businesses and jobs?
The vast majority of the support schemes for business run until September or even later, in order to accommodate the cautious and irreversible path out of restrictions:
- The furlough scheme is in place until the end of September, having supported over 11.5 million jobs and forecast to cost around £70 billion.
- At Budget we provided additional grants through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – supporting nearly 3 million self-employed and worth nearly £33 billion. A fourth grant is available now. From late July, a fifth grant will be also be available, and which will be more targeted towards those most impacted by the pandemic: people whose turnover has fallen by more than 30 per cent will receive the 80 per cent grant, while those whose turnover has fallen by less than 30 per cent will receive a 30 per cent grant. Our support for the self-employed is among the most generous anywhere in the world.
- Restart cash grants to help our businesses get going again. At the Budget we announced that hospitality and leisure businesses – including personal care, hairdressers and gyms – would receive generous Restart grants of up to £18,000 from April to see them through to re-opening. This takes our total cash grant support throughout the pandemic to £25 billion for businesses. A typical pub or nightclub’s monthly rent bill is between £1,300-£1,700.
- Discretionary grant funding for local councils to support local businesses. Throughout the pandemic, we have provided £2 billion for local authorities to provide grants to businesses at their discretion that they were keen to support or who missed out on other schemes. Nearly half of the £2 billion is still with local authorities and yet to be allocated. And on top of this £2 billion, an additional £1.5 billion will be available in due course as targeted support for businesses who have been unable to benefit from existing relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure business but have been impacted, such as food wholesalers and breweries. That’s a total of £3.5 billion of discretionary cash support – and businesses have been eligible for both a Restart grant and more than one discretionary grant.
- Business rates holiday. Last financial year, we provided an unprecedented 100 per cent business rates holiday for all eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – a tax cut worth £10 billion. This financial year, over 90 per cent of these businesses will receive a 75 per cent cut in their business rates bill for the full year to March 2022. The 100 per cent holiday continues until the end of June, with a further 66 per cent holiday for the remaining nine months – that means, across last year and this, a tax cut worth £16 billion.
- VAT cut extension. To protect the 150,000 hospitality and tourism businesses which employ around 2.4 million jobs and have been hardest hit, at Budget we extended the 5 per cent reduced rate of VAT for a further six months until the end of September. Even then, the rate will only increase to 12.5 per cent for a further 6 months and won’t return to the normal 20 per cent rate until April 2022. That means, across last year and this, a tax cut of over £7 billion.
- New Recovery Loans and Pay As You Grow for Bounce Back Loans. Our various loan schemes have provided £70 billion of support to 1.5 million companies. But as these come to an end, we are introducing new Recovery Loans to take their place: loans from £25,000 up to £10 million, with an 80 per cent government guarantee. And for Bounce Back Loans which are coming to an end, businesses are able to access our Pay As You Grow scheme, which allows them to defer repayments over a longer period – up to 10 years – and receive six-month payment holidays.
- Support for culture and sport. At the Budget, we provided an additional £700 million to support local and national arts, culture and sports institutions as they reopen – that’s on top of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, bringing our total support for sports and culture to over £2 billion – with around £600 million yet to be distributed. We’re also funding a new flexi-apprenticeship model that will work for creative industries, and we’ve extended our successful £500 million Film and TV Production Insurance Restart Scheme. The Events Research Pilots Programme will also be expanded, enabling more events – such as the Euros – to take place at full or greater capacities.