Tomorrow marks the end of ‘lockdown’ as we know it. Yes, of course various places have been able to re-open (shops, etc) and we have been allowed to sit outside (a bit chill at the moment) to meet a friend or relative or two, and so on.
However May 17th is the biggie. We all hoped this might be over in June – no more masks, and so on, but the new highly transmittable Indian variant means a race to get as many people vaccinated as possible, to allow this to happen.
On vaccines, for anyone unsure, the Government says this:
The success of the vaccination rollout, alongside falling infections and hospitalisations, is paving the way for the safe and gradual lifting of restrictions. Vaccines will mean that fewer people will get COVID-19 and that those who do are far less likely to go to hospital or to die. However, not all those offered the vaccine will take it up and there are some groups, such as children, for whom the vaccine is not yet authorised. Even when vaccinated, there is still a chance people can contract the virus and pass it on. No vaccine is 100% effective and, like all viruses, COVID-19 can mutate. As a result, as lockdown is lifted, there will sadly be more cases, hospitalisations and deaths. The Government will take a cautious approach to easing lockdown, guided by the data in order to avoid a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Increased vaccination reduces the risk of infection leading to severe disease or death. However, as with other diseases like the flu, some degree of risk will always remain. As social and economic restrictions are lifted, it will be increasingly important for people to consider the risks for themselves, taking into account whether they and those they meet have been vaccinated or have any pre-existing vulnerabilities.
High vaccine uptake is crucial in enabling restrictions to be lifted safely; every person who gets the vaccine will help reduce the impact of the virus on themselves and society. Everyone who is eligible for a vaccine should make all efforts to get vaccinated, with both first and second doses important.
Covid-19 has had a massive impact on society, not only in illness and deaths but in wider ways, such as impact on the economy, higher unemployment, a rise in anxiety and depression rates, and the educational and social impact on young people, to name just some.
For each development in the road map, the following have been taken into account:
The Four Tests
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
So, we have got to Step 3, but Step 4 is looking more questionable.
From May 17th, the following can re-open, and we have all been looking forward to it.
- Indoor entertainment and attractions.
- 30 person limit outdoors. Rule of 6 or two households (subject to review).
- Domestic overnight stays.
- Organised indoor adult sport.
- Most significant life events (30).
- Remaining outdoor entertainment (including performances).
- Remaining accommodation.
- Some large events (expect for pilots) – capacity limits apply.
- Indoor events: 1,000 or 50%.
- Outdoor other events: 4,000 or 50%.
- Outdoor seated events: 10,000 or 25%.
- International travel – subject to review.
In all sectors, COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and premises must not cater for groups larger than the legal limits. Sectors which will reopen include:
a. Indoor hospitality, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain;
b. Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas;
c. Indoor entertainment, such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas;
d. Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs;
e. Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes; and
f. Some large events, including conferences, theatre and concert performances and sports events. Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower. The Government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower. In addition, pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing (see paragraphs 132 to 134).
At this step, weddings, receptions, funerals, and commemorative events including wakes can proceed with up to 30 attendees. A broader range of stand-alone life events will also be permitted at this step, including bar mitzvahs and christenings.
It will remain important for people to consider the risks for themselves, taking into account whether they and those they meet have been vaccinated or are at greater risk.