All schools across East Lancashire and the rest of the country will re-open today as face-to-face lessons resume.
The most recent lockdown seems to have gone on forever, but today, Monday March 8 2020, sees the first step of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown come to fruition.
It’s not just schools that will re-open though, as a limited number of other restrictions will be lifted.
So what can we do from today?
From March 8, all children and students will begin to return to face-to-face education in schools and college.
Also, ‘wraparound’ childcare and other supervised children’s activities can resume where they enable parents to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group – this includes breakfast clubs and after school clubs.
Care home residents will also be allowed one regular visitor provided they are tested and wear PPE.
People will be allowed to leave home to meet one other person outside their household for recreational purposes only, such as to grab a takeaway coffee or tea, go for a walk, a cycle, or have a picnic outdoors.
Funerals can proceed with a maximum of 30 people, and six people at a wake, althought wakes in private homes will not be permitted.
Weddings can proceed but with six attendees only.
Does this mean I no longer have to stay at home?
Unfortunately not, the ‘stay at home’ requirement will remain until at least March 29, meaning you will still have to work from home, unless you cannot do so, and you will not be able to return to socialising in a group of friends just yet.
However, you don’t have to restrict yourself to daily exercise or essential shopping as recreation is allowed, but it is still illegal to mix socially indoors.
How will the situation be monitored?
Secondary school and college pupils will be asked to take twice-weekly rapid testing, this is in addition to regular testing for all teachers, which will hopefully reduce the chance of the virus spreading in schools.
What happens next?
The sequencing of easing will be driven by the evidence on sources of transmission.
The Government has prioritised outdoor activity because the likelihood of Covid-19 transmission is substantially lower in the open air than indoors.
This restores more freedom to people more quickly while minimising the impact on transmission.
But before moving on to the next part of step one, on March 29, the Government will review the latest data against four tests.
The tests are:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
And if everything goes well?
If everything goes well, and the Government are satisfied with the data, from March 29 there is an opportunity for some further limited changes as part of Step 1.
At this point, the Government will enable people to meet up in limited numbers outdoors, where they are less likely to catch the virus or pass it on.
People will be able to meet outside in groups up to a maximum of six people (the rule of six) or with one other household, though people from different households will still need to socially distance from each other.
This will apply in all outdoor settings, including private gardens.
The Government will also allow outdoor sports facilities to reopen, broadening the options for outdoor exercise and recreation.
These facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, and swimming pools, can be used by people in line with the wider social contact limits.
Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies.
Rules around funerals will not change; these can proceed with 30 attendees and wakes with six attendees, though not in private homes.
Weddings will still be able to proceed with six attendees only but will no longer be limited to exceptional circumstances.