Up to six people will be allowed to meet up in outdoor spaces under new guidance issued by the government.
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement paves the way for social workers getting back out to work, given primary schools are set to open from next week.
Schools are a massive source of referrals to children’s services and so, once they open which for some will be as early as next week on 1 June, it is likely that the government will review its guidance to social workers to enable them to meet the demand.
Children’s services directors and children’s charities have all raised concerns about a spike in referrals to children’s services, which is something WillisPalmer has been raising concerns about for months now, and whether they are able to cope with demand.
“Social workers will undoubtedly be encouraged to get back into communities as soon as is viably possible,” said Mark Willis, Chief Executive of WillisPalmer. “Once children return to school, which they will be from next week, referrals are likely to soar and social workers will need to be out there dealing with the massive fallout from lockdown which will have impacted majorly on vulnerable children and families.”
Boris Johnson’s announcement referred to the five tests:
Firstly, to protect the NHS’s ability to cope, so that sufficient critical care and specialist treatment can be provided right across the UK. The prime minister highlighted that on 26 May, 475 people were admitted to hospital in England with coronavirus - down from a peak of 3,121 on a single day, on 2 April. On 27 May, 11% of mechanical ventilator beds in the UK were occupied by patients with coronavirus, down from a peak of 41% on 10 April, thus meeting the first test.
Secondly, the government wanted to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19. As measured by a seven-day rolling average, the UK daily death rate now stands at 256, down from a peak of 943 on 14 April confirming that there has been a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rate, and so the second test is being met.
The third test was to receive reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection - the number of people catching Covid - is decreasing to manageable levels across the board. The prime minister said that over the last seven days, an average of 2,312 new cases were confirmed with a positive test, down from a peak of 5,066 in the first week of May and therefore, the government is satisfied that the third test is being met.
The fourth test, that the government is confident that the range of operational challenges such as testing capacity and Personal Protective Equipment, are in hand, with supply and can meet future demand.
While Boris Johnson acknowledged that there had been challenges, 119,587 tests were carried out yesterday, compared to around 12,000 at the start of April. Testing capacity has now increased to 161,214 a day and 100 new deals with PPE suppliers have been secured around the world.
The fifth test is that the government must be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS. The package has been carefully designed so that the government can ease the burdens of lockdown while expecting to keep that R below one.
“I cannot and will not throw away all the gains we have made together, and so the changes we are making are limited and cautious,” said Boris Johnson.
The measures introduced are as follows:
- Primary schools will now reopen to more children from 1 June.
- On 15 June, secondary schools will begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for years 10 and 12.
- Shops will be re-opened to restart the economy, starting with outdoor retail and car showrooms from Monday, where social distancing is generally easier.
- From 15 June, the government intends to reopen other non-essential retail - but only provided the five tests are still being met and shops have been made Covid secure.
- From Monday up to six people will be able to meet up outside - provided those from different households continue strictly to observe social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.
“These changes mean friends and family can start to meet their loved ones - perhaps seeing both parents at once, or both grandparents at once. I know that for many this will be a long-awaited and joyful moment,” said the prime minister.
“But I must stress that to control the virus, everyone needs to stay alert, act responsibly, strictly observe social distancing rules, and stay two metres apart from those who you do not live with,” he added.
People shielding should continue to do so.
An NHS Test and Trace programme has also been launched to monitor how the new changes are working.