Prime minister presents “roadmap” out of Covid-19 lockdown
Prime minister Boris Johnson presented his “conditional plan” for the reopening of UK society on Sunday evening.
Marginal easing of restrictions will allow individuals in England to spend an unlimited amount of time outdoors as of Wednesday this week. People are also allowed to meet one person from outside their household in public places on the condition that they adhere to social distancing by remaining two metres apart at all times.
Meanwhile, anybody who is unable to work from home has been encouraged to return to their workplace if they do not need to be shielded, but have been advised to avoid public transport wherever possible.
Anybody who is deemed high risk and needs to be shielded has been advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks minimum.
Construction and manufacturing were mentioned as industries where employees would be encouraged to return this week, with workplaces set to receive guidance on new safety procedures to minimise the risk of infection.
A new Covid Alert System has been established, which will determine the pace at which further restrictions may be lifted. A provisional date of June 1 at the earliest was earmarked by the PM as a return date for some primary school pupils to go back to school.
It is hoped that as of the start of June, some shops may be able to reopen if the science supports it.
Hospitality businesses and public places have been set a provisional reopening date of July 1 at the earliest.
Johnson said: "This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.
"Throughout this period of the next two months we will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity. We are going to be driven by the science, the data and public health.
"And I must stress again all of this is conditional, it all depends on a series of big ifs."
Further details concerning the new measures will be unveiled later on Monday, but the PM was clear that there will be a greater severity of fines for any “small minority” that happens to break the new rules.
As long as social distancing is practised, there are no longer restrictions on people in England driving longer distances to public places such as parks and beaches.
The reproduction rate of the virus will be one of the biggest factors in deciding when further measures could be eased, with the PM warning that it was critical to keep the “R Number” below one.
He said: "It depends on all of us - the entire country - to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that R down.”
Furthermore, Johnson said that a 14-day quarantine would be imposed on any new arrivals entering the UK, but this will not apply to anybody travelling between France and the UK at the present time.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised Johnson’s address over what he called a lack of “clarity and consensus”, adding that at raised “as many questions as it answers”.
Addressing the media, Sir Keir said that millions of people who are unable to work from home were effectively being told to return to work with 12 hours’ notice, while being discouraged to use public transport.
However, Johnson insisted in his speech that he had consulted “across the political spectrum, across all four nations of the UK” and that the plans drawn up by the government were a “general consensus”.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon was opposed to the idea of adapting the “stay home” slogan to “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”, and has stressed that the changes announced on Sunday will apply only in England for the time being.
Advice to stay home remains unchanged in Wales, while the Stormont executive in Northern Ireland will consider plans for a “phased, strategic approach” out of lockdown on Monday.
Although all four UK nations have expressed a preference to proceed as one, it is possible that restrictions could be eased at different stages.
The daily rise in UK Covid-19 deaths reported between Saturday and Sunday prior to the prime minister’s address was 269, taking the total UK death toll up to 31,855.