New lockdown rules for June
With the lockdown already easing for many in the UK. It seems that the Government’s “rules” are in a state of flux as some people adhere to them more than others. As June 1 is just around the corner. I thought I would take a look at the new lockdown rules for June.
OK, so let’s talk about Dominic Cummings
As I finish writing this article. I am watching the Daily Briefing with Boris Johnson defending Dominic Cummings. The repercussions from saying that he behaved ‘responsibly, legally, with integrity’ travelling to Durham, will be felt for weeks to come. If both the Government and/or Cummings had apologised for an ‘error of judgement’, then perhaps confidence in the government could have been restored. Whilst some people are defending him, many others are very angry at these double-standards.
A friend reminded me tonight that we have all missed key milestones in each other’s lives. Families have missed the funerals of loved ones and robbed of their chance to say goodbye. I had no intention of wading into this argument. However, the way in which this roadmap will now be supported in my mind has been greatly undermined by today.
Our Plan to Rebuild
The 50-page Government plan called ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, sets out a three-phase roadmap to ease the UK out of the current ‘lockdown’. I thought I would take a read of the full document this Sunday morning and report back so you don’t have to. I have put any official Government quotations in italics to guide you.
Please do keep reading official Government websites for any advice specific to you. It’s important to keep informed as to the ‘facts’ of the situation as much as possible.
Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy
In the forward by the Prime Minister, Boris outlines a plan for easing us out of lockdown into a COVID-19 World.
“This document sets out a plan to rebuild the UK for a world with COVID-19. It is not a quick return to ‘normality.’ Nor does it lay out an easy answer. And, inevitably, parts of this plan will adapt as we learn more about the virus. But it is a plan that should give the people of the United Kingdom hope. Hope that we can rebuild; hope that we can save lives; hope that we can safeguard livelihoods.
It will require much from us all: that we remain alert; that we care for those at most risk; that we pull together as a United Kingdom. We will continue to work with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure these outcomes for everybody, wherever they live in the UK.”
Therefore in the exact words outlined in the Government’s aim at the centre of this plan is to:
“return to life as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and fairly as possible….
…in a way that avoids a new epidemic, minimises lives lost and maximises health, economic and social outcomes.“
So what does this mean for us all?
The Government have outlined their 3-phase strategy, the first of which we are now exiting. We will be stuck in Phase two for some time to come it seems if a vaccine can’t be found. Feel free to pass over reading the next two phases, to get to the three steps.
Phase two: Smarter controls
Until the UK can reach phase three, the Government will gradually replace the existing social restrictions with smarter measures that balance its aims as effectively as possible.
The Government will enact measures that have the largest effect on controlling the epidemic but the lowest health, economic and social costs.
These will be developed and announced in periodic ‘steps’ over the coming weeks and months, seeking to maximise the pace at which restrictions are lifted, but with strict conditions to move from each step to the next. The Government will maintain options to react to a rise in transmissions, including by reimposing restrictions if required.
Over time, the Government will improve the effectiveness of these measures and introduce more reactive or localised measures through widespread, accurate monitoring of the disease. That will enable the lifting of more measures for more people, at a faster pace. Meanwhile, the Government will continue to increase NHS and social care capacity to ensure care for all COVID-19 patients while restoring ‘normal’ healthcare provision.
Phase three: Reliable treatment
Eradication of the virus from the UK (and globally) is very unlikely. But rolling out effective treatments and/or a vaccine will allow us to move to a phase where the effect of the virus can be reduced to manageable levels.
To bring about this phase as quickly as possible, the Government is investing in research, developing international partnerships and putting in place the infrastructure to manufacture and distribute treatments and/or a vaccine at scale.
Step One: 13th May
The Prime Minister announced various changes on 13th May which included the advice that workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. Yet all workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. e.g. food production, construction, manufacturing. This has been open to interpretation with many companies asking their employees to return to the workplace, even if they don’t fall into these categories.
4.1 Step Two: 1 June
Whilst the finer details are still being worked out before 1st June. The proposed changes as outlined in the document are as follows:
A phased return for schools (early years)
Opening of schools for the younger ones has been a topic widely discussed in the national press and confirmed by Boris Johnson today. Whilst school children of keyworkers and vulnerable children have been in school throughout this period, it remains to be seen how many school children will return this academic school year.
In follow up, on June 15th schools will then contact older children to discuss next year’s academic work and exams.
The guidance for sending pupils back to school includes reducing class sizes and staggered breaks, as well as pickups. Tests are to be then made available for school teachers and children, should anyone display symptoms.
Non-essential retail businesses opening
The Government intends to allow certain businesses and retailers to open on the condition they are following the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Hospitality and personal care are not able to re-open at this point due to being classed as high risk; that does include you Tim Martin, Wetherspoons. I am not sure how strict these rules are going to be enforced although we will no doubt see companies making announcements in the forthcoming weeks.
On Monday 25th May, Boris Johnson announced the following so that they can prepare to open...
1st June: markets and outdoor care showrooms can open.
15th June: allow all other non-essential retail shops such as department stores and shops to open.
Cultural & sporting events behind-closed-doors for broadcast
Not only has my football fantasy football team been suspended. Think of those broadcast deals threatened by the loss of football games? Facepalm moment. Despite a wave of footballers openly confirm they have COVID-19, the games continue. Not sure how social distancing is going to work for the players not that they have been role models throughout lockdown for this.
Re-opening more local public transport in urban areas, subject to strict measures
I have no personal experience of public transport right now as I am shielding. However, photos taken of the London Underground are enough to frighten the living bejeebers out of most people. Whilst key workers were the only people able to move freely during lockdown, this is now not the case and what’s with the lack of face masks? Re-opening more local transport will help alleviate if not solve this problem.
Family and Social Contact
Since 23 March the Government asked people to only leave the house for very limited purposes. Considering some people are able to go back to work – as long as you are social distancing. You are still restricted meeting family.
I personally believe in limiting the risk of transmission. Yet there seems a fundamental flaw in that you can return to work yet are unable to see members of your family. Obviously, if anyone is vulnerable then please don’t put them at risk. Let’s see what their final verdict is as they have left this section as a big TBC…
4.3 Step Three (TBC)
Currently, the Government have stated in this document that this will be no earlier than July 4th. Independence Day will take on a new meaning if so.
What will open?
The ambition at this step is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, caveating that they need to follow COVID-19 Guidelines, including:
– personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons)
– hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation)
– public places (such as places of worship)
– leisure facilities (like cinemas)
I think that many small businesses will be opening before the Government give the green light. Cinemas might not open anytime soon, but many salons and pubs will attempt to open.
5.3 Smarter shielding of the most vulnerable
Around 2.5 million people across the UK have been identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable and advised to shield. People like me are at risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19, so we have been advised to stay indoors until the end of June.
Over one million food boxes have been delivered in England since the programme started. NHS Volunteer Responders and local volunteers have also been offering support. It is likely that the Government will continue to advise people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to shield beyond June. I have provided guidance on each of these groups at the end of this article.
5.8 “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines
The UK guidelines include:
- Individuals should keep their distance from people outside their household, wherever possible. Transmission is affected by both duration and proximity of contact; individuals should not be too close to other people for more than a short amount of time. Public Health England recommends trying to keep two metres away from people as a precaution.
- It remains essential to keep hands and face as clean as possible. People should wash their hands often, using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Touching of the face should be avoided. Hand sanitiser should be carried when travelling and applied where available outside the home, especially when entering a building and following contact with surfaces. Clothes should also be washed regularly, as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics.
- It is possible to reduce the risks of transmission in the workplace by limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas.
5.10 Economic and social support to maintain livelihoods and restore the economy
Support has been announced to help millions of workers and businesses, for the most vulnerable in society and those on the lowest income, for homeowners and renters, and for public services and vital sectors. The Government’s package has also been complemented by the actions of the independent Bank of England.
The Government has introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to prevent employers having to lay off staff and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to support eligible sole traders and partnerships and has increased the standard allowance of Universal Credit and basic element of Working Tax Credits by £20 a week for one year (this will mean claimants are £1,040 per year better off). In the first two weeks since the Job Retention scheme was launched, over 800,000 employers have applied for help to pay the wages of over 6 million furloughed jobs.
The Government has increased the support it is offering through the benefits system for housing costs and for the self-employed, it has introduced a moratorium on private rental sector evictions, has established a new hardship fund and provided support for rough sleepers. Lenders are offering mortgage holidays for borrowers struggling with their finances and unable to make their repayments as a result of COVID-19.
The support for businesses includes:
- VAT deferrals until the end of June that provide a direct cash injection of over £30bn, Self-Assessment tax deferrals from July to next January, providing a cashflow benefit of £13bn and more than 64,000 tailored Time to Pay arrangements agreed with businesses and individuals;
- A business rates holiday worth £11bn to businesses;
- Direct cash grants worth £10,000 or £25,000 for small businesses including in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors, worth over £12bn in total;
- £1.25bn support for innovative firms;
- A rebate scheme to reimburse SMEs for part of their SSP costs worth up to £2bn for up to two million businesses; and
- A package of government-backed and guaranteed loans, which make available approximately £330bn of guarantees.
The Government is also supporting the NHS and other public services in the fight against the virus. So far more than £16bn from the COVID-19 Response Fund has gone towards the effort.
The Government recognises that many charities are working on the frontline to support people including hospices, citizens advice and support for victims of domestic violence and has provided a £750m package to enable those working on the frontline to continue supporting UK communities.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that the direct cost to the Government of the response to COVID-19 could rise above £100bn in 2020-21. In addition to this, support of approximately £330bn (equivalent to 15% of GDP) in the form of guarantees and loans has been made available to businesses.
So as the UK adjusts the current restrictions, the Government will also need to wind down the economic support measures while people are eased back to work
The world will not return to ‘normal’ after COVID-19; much of the global economy is likely to change significantly. The UK will need to be agile in adapting to and shaping this new world if the Government is to improve living standards across the nation as it recovers from COVID-19.
6.1 A collective effort
Parking the discussion of civil liberties and politics to one side for the moment. You only have to see COVIDIOTS trending on a sunny bank holiday to witness photos of people on the beach and in parks and the ensuing backlash. People are making their own judgements about COVID-19. The threat of fines, which are not well documented for lingering in groups are not a great deterrent. Whilst many people have been considerate and thoughtful of others; not everyone has been so.
The threat is a collective one; the responsibility to keep everyone safe is one everyone shares.
If the Government is to begin to adjust the social restrictions, it will require everyone to act thoughtfully and responsibly to keep R down, and the Government has little room for error.
If, as restrictions are lifted, everyone chooses to act cautiously and in line with the revised guidance, R will remain low, the rate of transmission will decline further, and the Government can lift more restrictions.
This effort must, however, be a shared and collective one; only a small number of new outbreaks would cause R to tip back above one and require the re-imposition of some restrictions.
The dreaded second wave
Figures reporting the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 reveals that it was the second wave of the virus which was the most deadly. As we ease into the summer months, people’s exposure to the sun and general wellness will increase. It will be in the winter months what this becomes a potential risk once more.
“The biggest threat to life remains the risk of a second peak that overwhelms the healthcare system this winter when it will be under more pressure and the NHS still needs to deliver non-urgent care. A second peak would also trigger a return of the wider health, economic and social harms associated with the first outbreak. This plan aims to minimise this risk.“
As the COVID-19 virus is making its way through the UK. Many people are gathering anti-bodies, but tragically people are also dying. Whilst the aim of the Government’s steps are to minimise risk as we are unable to eradicate this virus any time soon. I don’t think I am the only one who is wondering what to do for the best.
Let me know your thoughts below…
7. Staying safe outside your home (thought I would include this here for you)
This guidance sets out the principles you should follow to ensure that time spent with others outside your homes is as safe as possible (unless you are clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable in which case you should follow separate advice on GOV.UK. It is your responsibility to adopt these principles wherever possible. The Government is also using these principles as the basis of discussions with businesses, unions, local government and many other stakeholders to agree how they should apply in different settings to make them safer. All of us, as customers, visitors, employees or employers, need to make changes to lower the risk of transmission of the virus. The Government has consulted with its scientific advisers to establish the principles that will determine these changes.
Keep your distance from people outside your household, recognising this will not always be possible. The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus and the amount of time you spend in close contact: you are very unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street. Public Health England recommends trying to keep 2m away from people as a precaution. However, this is not a rule and the science is complex. The key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short amount of time, as much as you can.
Keep your hands and face as clean as possible. Wash your hands often using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Use sanitiser where available outside your home, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces. Avoid touching your face.
Work from home if you can. Many people can do most or all of their work from home, with the proper equipment and adjustments. Your employer should support you to find reasonable adjustments to do this. However, not all jobs can be done from home. If your workplace is open and you cannot work from home, you can travel to work.
Avoid being face to face with people if they are outside your household. You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets released by someone talking or coughing when you are within 2m of someone and have face-to-face contact with them. You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing people.
Reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting where you can. You can lower the risks of transmission in the workplace by reducing the number of people you come into contact with regularly, which your employer can support where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to match you with the same team each time and splitting people into smaller, contained teams. Avoid crowds. You can lower the risks of transmission by reducing the number of people you come into close contact with, so avoid peak travel times on public transport where possible, for example. Businesses should take reasonable steps to avoid people being gathered together, for example by allowing the use of more entrances and exits and staggering entry and exit where possible. If you have to travel (to work or school, for example) think about how and when you travel. To reduce demand on the public transport network, you should walk or cycle wherever possible. If you have to use public transport, you should try and avoid peak times. Employers should consider staggering working hours and expanding bicycle storage facilities, changing facilities and car parking to help.
Wash your clothes regularly. There is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days, although usually, it is shorter, so if you are working with people outside your household wash your clothes regularly. Changing clothes in workplaces should only normally be considered where there is a high risk of infection or there are highly vulnerable people, such as in a care home. If you need to change your clothes avoid crowding into a changing room.
Keep indoor places well ventilated. Evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors. In good weather, try to leave windows and doors open in places where people from different households come into contact – or move activity outdoors if you can. Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the fresh air flow rate. Heating and cooling systems can be used at their normal temperature settings.
If you can, wear a face-covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops. The evidence suggests that wearing a face-covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough and/or high temperature) you and your household should isolate at home: wearing a face-covering does not change this. A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these supplies should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards. Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example, primary school-age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions. It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.
You can make face coverings at home; the key thing is it should cover your mouth and nose. You can find guidance on how to do this on GOV.UK.
You should follow the advice given to you by your employer when at work. Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to your safety in the workplace. The Government has issued guidance to help them do this. This includes how to make adjustments to your workplace to help you maintain social distance. It also includes guidance on hygiene as evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces. Frequent cleaning is therefore particularly important for communal surfaces like door handles or lift buttons and communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and tea points. You can see the guidance on GOV.UK and can ask your employer if you have questions.
8. Summary table: COVID-19 vulnerable groups (for people like me!)
|Group||Explanation||Current and continuing guidance||Government support|
|Clinically extremely vulnerable people (all people in this cohort will have received communication from the NHS)||People defined on medical grounds a clinically extremely vulnerable, meaning they are at the greatest risk of severe illness. This group includes solid organ transplant recipients, people receiving chemotherapy, renal dialysis patients and others.||Follow shielding guidance by staying at home at all times and avoiding all non-essential face-to-face contact. This guidance is in place until end June.||Support available from the National Shielding Programme, which includes food supplies (through food boxes and priority supermarket deliveries), pharmacy deliveries and care. Support is available via the NHS Volunteer Responders app.|
|Clinically vulnerable people||People considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Clinically vulnerable people include the following: people aged 70 or older, people with liver disease, people with diabetes, pregnant women and others.||Stay at home as much as possible. If you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.||Range of support available while measures in place, including by local authorities and through voluntary and community groups. Support is available via the NHS Volunteer Responders app.|
|Vulnerable people (non-clinical)||There is a range of people who can be classified as ‘vulnerable’ due to non-clinical factors, such as children at risk of violence or with special education needs, victims of domestic abuse, rough sleepers and others.||People in this group will need to follow general guidance except where they are also clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable, where they should follow guidance as set out above.||For those who need it, a range of support and guidance across public services and the benefits system, including by central and local government and the voluntary and community sector.|