In his broadcast to the nation the Prime Minister set out a road map explaining how we can re-open society. Mr Johnson said he was aware that there are millions of people who are both fearful of this terrible disease and at the same time also fearful of what this long period of enforced inactivity will do to their livelihoods and their mental and physical wellbeing. He outlined a cautious approach, but he stressed that the collective effort to adopt and keep to the lockdown measures has prevented the country from being engulfed by a catastrophe with a potential total of half a million fatalities.
The Prime Minister said it would be madness to throw away the achievement by allowing a second spike, so we must stay alert, continue to control the virus and save lives.
The five tests
Before we can open up again the Prime Minister stressed that the five key tests must be met:
• We must protect our NHS.
• We must see sustained falls in the death rate.
• We must see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection.
• We must sort out our challenges in getting enough PPE to the people who need it, and yes, it is a global problem but we must fix it.
• We must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease - the R - back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago.
As these five tests have not yet been met so the Prime Minister said this is not the time to end the lockdown. However, he did announce some relaxation in a step by step approach.
- Anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work but, wherever possible, people should avoid public transport.
- New guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure will be published
- From Wednesday people can take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise.
- You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.
However, at all times the social distancing rules must be obeyed and to enforce those rules the fines for those who break them will be increased.
This is expected to be in early June – after half term – when we can expected a phased reopening of shops and the return of primary schools in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Secondary pupils facing exams next year should get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays.
This will be in July at the earliest some of the hospitality industry and other public places may open but only if scientific advice and the numbers support it and social distancing can be enforced.
New Covid Alert System
This will be run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre. The Covid Alert Level will be determined primarily by R and the number of coronavirus cases and it will dictate how tough we have to be in our social distancing measures. So, the lower the level the fewer the measures but the higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be. There will be five alert levels. Level 1 means the disease is no longer present in the UK and Level 5 is the most critical, when the NHS is likely to be overwhelmed. Over the period of the lockdown we have been in Level Four and we are now moving to Level 3.
This will be key to any decisions about how and when the country re-opens.
The priority is to bring down the level of infection in care homes and in the NHS. To control this virus the Prime Minister said that we must ensure we have a world-beating system for testing potential victims and for tracing their contacts. The aim is to test hundreds of thousands a day.
You can watch the full video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjvRhrJqNHI
More guidance on how all these measure will work will be published soon.