Posted: 23.02.21 at 10:12 by Daniel Clark - Local Democracy Reporter
The Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown has been met with a cautious welcome by Devon leaders.
Boris Johnson yesterday (Monday) announced a series of steps on how the country will come out of its third national lockdown.
This will start with pupils returning to schools on March 8 and finish with the aim of lifting all legal limits on social distancing on June 21 at the earliest.
Welcoming the news with cautious optimism, Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “I know that many parents will be delighted that schools are to open up and we are working with heads and their staffs to ensure that is done as safely as possible across Devon.
"For people who have endured this worst of lockdowns, the Prime Minister's roadmap will provide some real hope along with the hugely successful vaccination programme.
"Families who haven't seen each other for months will be able to get together, friends will be able to meet for a coffee or go for a walk.
"I'm afraid that it looks as though our tourism and hospitality operators will miss Easter - the traditional start of the season - but at least they now have something to aim for and I know many have said when they open this time, they don't want to have to close again.
"But hospitality and our other businesses, such as retail, which have been so hard hit by the pandemic will still need support and I look to the budget next week to address this, including an extension of the furlough scheme.
"Devon County Council and our partners in Team Devon will do all we can to support our businesses and provide the right climate for them to recover and thrive.
"And I would urge every resident in Devon to continue to abide by the rules and keep our county's infection rates as low as they have been so far."
Steve Brown, director of Public Health Devon, added: "While all of us look forward to a relaxation of the national regulations, it's vital that we continue to exercise caution.
“COVID-19 is an extremely infectious virus, and is still very much present in the community. Cases in Devon have remained relatively low compared to elsewhere in the country and we do not want to see cases rising again.
“As restrictions start to ease, we must therefore remain absolutely resolute in adhering to the national public health measures - keep our social distance, wear face coverings whenever indoors in a public place, and to wash our hands regularly."
Speaking of the return to school for all pupils on March 8, Cllr James McInnes, the county council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for education, said: "Our schools have been open for key worker families and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic.
'Staff have been doing a tremendous job catering for their needs at the same time as providing home schooling for their other children and this has meant considerably more work.
"I am pleased to see that there will be an opening of schools for all pupils and we are working with headteachers to ensure this will be done as safely as possible.
'It is vital for children to get back to classroom learning for their educational development but also for their wider social and mental wellbeing.
"The vaccination programme is going extremely well in Devon and nationally and, once again, I repeat my call for school staff to be vaccinated as soon as is humanly possible."
Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of East Devon District Council, said: “It is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement today that he realises there must be some restrictions in place until at least June 21.
"That date for total return to normal still seems optimistic, but the key factor at that time will be how many people in the UK have had both jabs by then.
“For East Devon, the re-opening of schools on March 8, some still under masked conditions, is to be welcomed.
"Our local children and their parents and carers have had a traumatic winter of isolation, and with spring in the air I am sure they will be relieved to return.
“It is also a relief to be allowed to have limited meetings with others for socialising and outdoor sport at the end of this month, although I would urge people to remember that lockdown is still in place.
"We should take the time to make socially-distanced contact with neighbours we may not have seen for months.
“Local businesses and their customers will be relieved to hear that shops, museums, outdoor pubs and restaurants etc. may be allowed to open at some time in April, but this is yet to be confirmed.
"For our vital tourist industry, the re-opening of self-catering accommodation, zoos, theme parks and camp sites will be a welcome green shoot.
“For EDDC, our valued LED leisure service remains restricted until at least April, and of course all our operations through Streetscene must continue under the cautious conditions of the last year until further notice.
“I would urge everyone to remain very careful but to be encouraged that this summer we may be seeing some form of return to normality. Until then: Stay Safe and Protect the NHS.”
Devon MPs have also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement, with Honiton and Tiverton MP Neil parish commenting: “We are still dealing with a highly transmissible disease, so I think the Prime Minister is right to be cautious until the vaccines are offered to all of the priority groups and it has been given some time to take effect.
“Data not dates, is the right approach. We will know a lot more by Easter, but the news regarding vaccine efficacy today is hugely encouraging and will allow us to open up slowly as more people get vaccinated.
“Many families and businesses will be grateful tonight [Monday] for the clear roadmap ahead, allowing them to plan.”
• All children and students will return to face-to-face learning in schools and colleges.
• 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.
• Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor provided they are tested and wear PPE.
• The Stay at Home requirement will remain, but people can leave home for recreation outdoors, such as a coffee or picnic with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household.
• Some university students on practical courses will be able to return to face to face learning.
• Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, including in private gardens.
• Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, will be allowed to reopen, and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
• The Stay at Home order will end, although many lockdown restrictions will remain, for example you should continue to work at home where possible and overseas travel bans will remain.
• Non-essential retail, personal care premises, such as hairdressers and nail salons, and public buildings, such as libraries and community centres, will reopen.
• Most outdoor attractions and settings, including zoos and theme parks, will reopen although wider social contact rules will apply in these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households. Drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances will also be permitted.
• Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, will reopen - but only for use by people on their own or with their household.
• Hospitality venues can serve people outdoors only. There will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcohol and no curfew - although customers must order, eat and drink while seated.
• Self-contained accommodation, such as holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can reopen.
• Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15 (from 6).
• Outdoors, most social contact rules will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
• Outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas, outdoor theatres and outdoor cinemas can reopen. Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply, although this will be kept under review.
• Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen.
• Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4000 people or half-full (whichever is lower).
• In the largest outdoor seated venues where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).
• Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. Other life events that will be permitted include bar mitzvahs and christenings.
• It is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed.
• Restrictions will be lifted on nightclubs, large events and performances.
• This will also guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.
The dates given are the earliest at which restrictions will be eased.
This will be based on four tests:
• 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.
• Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step - four weeks for the data to reflect changes in restrictions, followed by seven days’ notice of the restrictions to be eased.
For more details visit www.gov.uk