Prime minister Boris Johnson last night revealed the first steps for a roadmap out of lockdown measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The prime minister said it was “not the time simply to end the lockdown this week” but announced several light restrictions on lockdown measures.
People who cannot work from home, such as those working in construction, should be actively encouraged to return to work. People should drive, walk or cycle to work if possible. The government will be providing guidance to make sure workplaces are secure.
Currently the public is only allowed out for shopping, essentials and one form of exercise per day. However, Boris Johnson said families could carry out “unlimited amounts of exercise”, providing they adhered to social distancing.
He also announced that as early as 1 June, there could be a phased re-opening of schools, starting with those in reception, year 1 and year 6.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “During our webinar on Thursday evening 90% of those attending told us that they did not feel confident that it would be safe to open their schools in the coming weeks. 95% said that they did not think that their staff would feel confident.
“I strongly suspect that tonight’s announcement will have done little to allay those concerns. If anything, I expect the announcement has only served to increase the anxieties of school leaders and teachers throughout the country.
“Let’s be very clear, all of us want to get more pupils back into school as soon as it is safe to do so. Our members have devoted their lives and careers to the care and education of young people – they do not want to see classrooms empty for a day longer than they need to be.
“However, as any school leader will tell you, the first priority has to be the safety of everyone in the school community,” he added.
Some parts of the hospitality industry may be open from July, the prime minister added.
He said there are five alert levels with Level 1 meaning the disease is no longer in the UK and Level 5 being the most critical and the NHS is overwhelmed. Under lockdown measures, we have been at Level 4 and we are now moving into Level 3, he said.
However, we need to “Stay Alert, Control the Virus, and Save Lives” and we cannot move forward unless we satisfy the five tests: protecting the NHS, having a sustained fall in death rates, see a sustained and considerable fall in the rate of infection, sort out the challenges of getting PPE to the people who need it and to make sure any measures taken do not force the reproduction rate of the disease, or the ‘R rate’, back over one.
“We have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous,” Boris Johnson concluded.
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “It is encouraging that we are now moving into the next phase of tackling this virus and we look forward to seeing more details on the government’s plan.
“During this pandemic, councils’ role as leaders of place has been more important than ever before. They will continue to lead their communities through this crisis as we adapt to this new way of life, working day and night to protect the most vulnerable, help local businesses, keep important services running and support national efforts to defeat this disease.”
“The scale of the economic, environmental and community challenges that we will face cannot be under-estimated. Communities will need to keep sticking together through this crisis and follow the government’s plan and social distancing rules to ensure people are not put at risk unnecessarily,” he added.