The Prime Minister has announced plans for the final stage of the Government’s roadmap out of Lockdown.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement, which provides clarity on what the final stage of the roadmap will look like. Many of my constituents, as well as many businesses in my constituency, will be relieved to hear that legal restrictions will be eased. But I am also aware that some of my constituents may be apprehensive about these changes.
While we will not be able to eliminate Covid, we do need to learn how to live with it in the same way we do flu. While infection rates have risen recently, the link with hospitalizations and deaths (while not completely broken) has been significantly reduced. This is due to the success of the vaccination programme and, importantly, the fact that the British public have taken it upon themselves in incredible numbers to protect themselves and others by getting the jab.
As the Prime Minister himself said today, we have to ask ourselves – if we can’t reopen in the next few weeks, when will we be able to return to normal? A Summer lifting of restrictions is the right thing to do, before the NHS comes under greater pressure in Autumn and Winter from seasonal flu.
Step four is expected to begin on Monday, the 19th July if the government’s “four tests” for easing COVID restrictions have been met. This will be confirmed on Monday the 12th July following a review of the latest data.
If the decision to proceed is taken on the 12th July, then from the 19th July the Government will enter a new phase in its response to the pandemic - moving away from stringent restrictions on everyone’s day-to-day lives, towards advising people on how to protect themselves and others, alongside targeted interventions to reduce risk. To do this, the Government will follow a five stage strategy as stated by the Prime Minister in his speech:
"First, we will reinforce our vaccine wall, reducing the dose interval for under 40s from 12 weeks to 8, so that everyone over 18 should be double jabbed by mid-September, in addition to our Autumn programme of booster vaccines for the most vulnerable.
Second, we will change the basic tools that we have used to control human behaviour. We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus. From Step 4, we will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors. We will end the 1 metre plus rule on social distancing, and the legal obligation to wear a face covering, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising, and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed places, such as obviously crowded public transport.
It will no longer be necessary for government to instruct people to work from home, so employers will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace.
Third, we will continue from Step 4 to manage the virus with a test, trace and isolate system that is proportionate to the pandemic. You will have to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace. But we are looking to move to a different regime for fully vaccinated contacts of those testing positive.
Fourth, from Step 4 we will maintain our tough border controls – including the red list – and recognising the protection afforded by two doses of vaccine, we will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an amber country.
Fifth, we will continue to monitor the data and retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods, such as the winter. But we will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid re-imposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring. And the best thing we can do to repay their courage and dedication right now is protect ourselves and others and to get those jabs whenever our turn comes."
The Prime Minister's Statement in Full