Statement to the Commons
The Prime Minister has given a statement to the House of Commons, outlining how Coronavirus “lockdown” measures in England will be eased in the weeks ahead. Lockdown will be released in stages, across the country as a whole (ie: no local “tiers”) and will depend on four tests being met:
- Continued rollout of the vaccination programme
- Vaccines remaining effective
- No threat of a surge in infections which would impact the NHS
- No sign of increased threat from new viral strains
There will be at least five weeks between stages, with one week’s notice given before progressing. Timing will be determined by evidence and may change. The PM warned that the scheme may be reversed if the situation demands it.
Summary of provisional dates
- Step 1a - 08 March
- Limited household mixing
- Return to schools and further education
- Step 1b – 28 March
- Outdoor gatherings permitted, subject to “Rule Of Six”
- Outdoor sporting activities resume
- “Stay At Home” message replaced by “Stay Local”
- Step 2 – 12 April
- Foodservice re-opens, serving outdoor seated patrons
- Non-essential retail re-opens
- Outdoor attractions and some holiday accommodation
- Step 3 – 17 May
- Indoor hospitality re-opens
- Indoor leisure (eg: cinemas) re-opens
- Limited reopening of sports stadiums, with low occupancy
- Possible restoration of international travel
- “Rule Of Six” for outdoor meetings ends
- Step 4- 21 June
- Hospitality returns to normal operation
- Large events with full crowns permitted
- Nightclubs re-open
What it means
This news is positive, although it covers only England (other nations are developing alternative plans). Re-opening businesses should help to fuel a post-virus economic “bounce” over the Summer, as well as providing a valuable morale boost for citizens.
Re-opening of foodservice and hospitality will offer some relief to sectors that have been hit hard by the Coronavirus emergency, although pressure will not be released at once.
Food manufacturers must now work with their partners in the foodservice sector to consider how they will serve businesses after a long period of enforced dormancy.
Much will depend on how safe citizens feel in attending various locations. ONS research shows that around 40% of people currently feel uncomfortable when venturing out of their homes, with older citizens and women feeling especially nervous. Workers are likely to have similar concerns.
Overcoming this reluctance will not be easy – habits and inclinations built-up over the last year may persist even after the Coronavirus threat fades.
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