Boris Johnson will today put Britain on a path to restarting much of the economy from July as he reveals there is no recovery plan that involves a “zero risk” approach.
The prime minister wants all English primary school children to have at least a month’s teaching before the summer holidays and even wants some hairdressers and beauty salons back in business at some point in late summer under a 50-page blueprint released today.
The government is also now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible, for example on public transport or in some shops.
The details come in “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid 19 recovery strategy” which sets out the three-phase approach, starting this week with further lockdown loosening at the start of June and further changes potentially from 4 July.
The document says:
- From this week those with jobs in food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories should return to the workplace
- The government wants children of key workers and those who are vulnerable to go back to school at once
- Guidance is being amended to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can restart work
- The government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops. Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances
- People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish. For example, this would include angling and tennis. You will still not be able to use areas like playgrounds, outdoor gyms or ticketed outdoor leisure venues, where there is a higher risk of close contact and touching surfaces
- Mr Johnson tells MPs that “parliament must set a national example” by moving in step with public health guidance and holding more meetings in the chamber
- When travelling to outdoor spaces, the document said it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration
- From next month, the government is looking at permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact
- The government has delayed the introduction of household “bubbles” to connect people. It says: “Over the coming weeks, the government will engage on the nature and timing of the measures in this step, in order to consider the widest possible array of views on how best to balance the health, economic and social effects.”
- In the third and final phase, which could begin on 4 July, the government wants to open some hairdressers and beauty salons, churches and some cinemas.
It means people will now be able to drive to outdoor open spaces “irrespective of distance” in England from this week, according to the document.
The government also opens the door to limited social gatherings with one other person outside from this week, providing they are socially distanced.
The document says the government “is updating the rules so that, as well as exercise, people can now also spend time outdoors subject to: not meeting up with any more than one person from outside your household.”
However, meetings with more than one person are forbidden.
The document warns: “Much of what is desirable is not yet possible. So the government’s plan considers carefully when and where to take risk. A ‘zero risk’ approach will not work in these unprecedented times.”
Writing the forward, Mr Johnson says: “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.
“It is clear that the only feasible long-term solution lies with a vaccine or drug-based treatment.”
The prime minister warns that the restrictions could yet last a long time.
Mr Johnson says: “But while we hope for a breakthrough, hope is not a plan. A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine. So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome.”
Downing Street also makes clear it believes its room for manoeuvre is limited, saying: “The government cannot yet be confident that major adjustments now will not risk a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS. Therefore, the government is only in a position to cautiously lift elements of the existing measures.”
The public is being told that the government will gradually “replace the existing social restrictions with smarter measures” concentrating on 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,” according to the document.
The document also reveals the fear in government that winter flu posses a unique threat this year when combined with coronavirus.
It says people without COVID-19 are likely to have symptoms that resemble COVID-19, leading to increasing the demand for hospital beds and impeding efforts to trace the virus.