I was greatly encouraged by the Prime Minister's statement to the house this afternoon, in which he shared details of how we as a nation will start to safely come out of this third national lockdown. This statement provides real hope for all of us that there is indeed light at the end of tunnel. Please read on to see the details of how things will begin to return to normal.
"Step one will happen from 8 March, by which time those in the top four priority groups will be benefiting from the increased protection they receive from their first dose of their vaccine. Pupils and students in all schools and further education settings can safely return to face-to-face teaching, supported by twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils. Families and childcare bubbles will also be encouraged to get tested regularly. Breakfast and afterschool clubs can also re-open - and other children’s activities, including sport, can restart where necessary to help parents to work. Students on university courses requiring practical teaching, specialist facilities or onsite assessments will also return.
People will also be able to meet one person from outside their household for outdoor recreation – such as a coffee on a bench or a picnic in a park - in addition to exercise. Every care home resident will be able to nominate a named visitor, able to see them regularly provided they are tested and wear PPE and finally we will amend regulations to enable a broader range of Covid-secure campaign activities for local elections on 6 May.
As part of Step one, we will go further and make limited changes on 29 March, when schools go on Easter holidays. It will become possible to meet in limited numbers outdoors, where the risk is lower. So the Rule of Six will return outdoors, including in private gardens and outdoor meetings of two households will also be permitted on the same basis, so that families in different circumstances can meet. Outdoor sports facilities – such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools – will be able to reopenand formally organised outdoor sports will resume, subject to guidance.
From this point, 29 March, people will no longer be legally required to stay at home but many lockdown restrictions will remain.
Step two will begin at least five weeks after the beginning of step one and no earlier than 12 April, with an announcement at least seven days in advance. In step two non-essential retail will reopen, as will personal care including hairdressers I’m glad to say, and nail salons. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will re-open, as will holiday-lets, but only for use by individuals or household groups. We will begin to re-open our pubs and restaurants outdoors Zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas will re-open as will public libraries and community centres.
Step three will begin no earlier than 17 May - Provided the data satisfies the four tests, most restrictions on meetings outdoors will be lifted, subject to a limit of thirty. And this is the point when you will be able to see your friends and family indoors - subject to the Rule of Six or the meeting of two households. We will also reopen pubs and restaurants indoors along with cinemas and children’s play areas, hotels, hostels, and B&Bs. Theatres and concert halls will open their doors, and the turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate subject in all cases to capacity limits depending on the size of the venue. We will then pilot larger events using enhanced testing, with the ambition of further easing of restrictions in the next step.
Step 4 will begin no earlier than 21 June. With appropriate mitigations, we will aim to remove all legal limits on social contact, and on weddings and other life events. We will re-open everything up to and including nightclubs, and enable large events such as theatre performances above the limits of step 3, potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection."
I'm sure that you agree with me that these steps are a welcome source of hope during these trying times. I personally look forward to the time when I can return fully to my role serving the people of Bournemouth West - free of restrictions on meeting and engaging with you, my consituents. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to get in touch via Conor.Burns.MP@Parliament.UK if you need any help or assistance.
I hope you stay safe and well,