The UK Government has announced it is moving forward with measures to ease the lockdown restrictions which were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it acknowledged that the five tests it set out towards achieving this end have been met, reports Sky News.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the measure at the Downing Street daily briefing on 28 May, after a review of social-distancing measures and a progress update from advisers. After confirming the five tests required for the next phase of lockdown easing had been met, Johnson said:
“The result is we can moved forward with adjusting the lockdown on Monday.”
The first test was whether the NHS possessed the spare beds in ICU to look after those seriously ill with COVID-19. The second was a sustained drop in daily deaths from the disease.
The third test was a decrease of infection rate to manageable levels.
The R rate has gone down— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) May 28, 2020
It is now 0.7-0.9
Last Friday it was 0.7-1
The forth was that challenges such as testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) are in adequate supply, and, finally, the fifth test was that changes to the current measures will not risk overwhelming the National Health service (NHS) with a second peak of infections.
As of 9am 28 May, there have been 3,918,079 tests, with 119,587 tests on 27 May.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) May 28, 2020
269,127 people have tested positive.
As of 5pm on 27 May, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 37,837 have sadly died. pic.twitter.com/zj0HjOtMDG
Johnson said the plans for easing restrictions were “carefully designed” while trying to keep the R value (infection rate) below one, but noted that different parts of the UK were progressing at different speeds due to the devolved powers of the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Addressing the briefing, Johnson said:
“It is thanks to the caution we have shown so far that all five tests are being met. That is not my achievement or the Government’s achievement – it is your achievement, only possible thanks to your resolve and dedication to our national purpose to overcome this virus.”
As of Monday groups of up to six people can meet outside in public and private outdoor spaces, including gardens.
In cases when encounters are between members of different households, physical distancing, such as staying 2 metres apart must be observed.
Also on Monday, some schools will reopen to specific categories of pupils. Nurseries, reception, year 1 and year 6 are to lead in the process.
As of 15 June, secondary schools will start offering face-to-face contact time for years 10 and 12.
Outdoor retail spaces will be allowed to reopen, with other non-essential retail outlets following on 15 June.
Outdoor exercise has been encouraged since the start of lockdown easing in mid-May, with respect for physical distancing, and activities occurring with only a maximum of one other person from another household.
As for work from home, those in a position to continue to do so are advised to stay with the measure, while those who cannot are allowed to travel to work while trying to avoid public transport.
At a daily press briefing on Thursday Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed the government was going ahead with its phase 1 of a four-stage plan to ease out of lockdown.
Nonetheless, the stay-at-home message remains core to new guidance, which as of Friday allows residents to meet with members of one other household outdoors, in parks or private gardens, while observing social distancing.
The total number of people meeting thus should be a maximum of eight.
People will be allowed to walk or cycle for recreation or visits, with a suggested limit of five miles.
In parks, people will be allowed to sit and sunbathe, with many outdoor non-contact sports allowed, such as golfing, fishing, tennis and bowling.
Most outdoor business that was shut over lockdown can resume, with garden centres and recycling facilities also allowed to reopen.
On Monday, teachers will be allowed to return to schools to prepare for the start of the new school year on 11 August. On that date pupils are anticipated to embark on a “blended” schedule of at home and in school learning.
Child minding services and fully outdoor nurseries have been allowed to reopen on Wednesday.
Wales is still operating the strictest lockdown policy in the UK.
While restrictions have eased, with gardening and recycling centres reopened, “stay local” is the dominant message, from the Cardiff devolved government, discouraging the day trips across the country that are now permitted elsewhere.
Unlike England, where non-essential retail shops are to reopen by mid-June, Wales health minister Vaughan Gething said his country would continue its “cautious approach’” to lifting the lockdown.
Nevertheless, First Minister Mark Drakeford is set to announce on Friday that people from two different households will be able to meet outdoors, while not encouraged to travel more than five miles.
Northern Ireland announced on Thursday it was cautiously venturing into phase two of a five-phase plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions, allowing small outdoor weddings and some outdoor retailers to open from 8 June.
Earlier, on 18 May, garden and recycling centres were allowed to open.
Car showrooms, furniture shops, agricultural machinery, dog-grooming parlours and outdoor weddings have been granted the opportunity to resume operations, allowing for no more than 10 people.
While still no specific date has been given to reopening of hotels, they will be allowed to accept bookings.
The first minister, Arlene Foster, said the Northern Ireland government would confirm further relaxation of lockdown after meeting to review the developments on 4 June.