13 May 20
Posted at 7:46
On Sunday evening the prime minister made a televised announcement. In summary he said we were now, having past the peak, in a position to take small steps forward in easing some lockdown restrictions. The message 'stay at home' has changed to 'stay alert'. Needless to say this has caused some confusion, not least because there are those among us who like nothing more than to create confusion and misunderstanding to facilitate their own political ends. Over the last 72 hours since the brief announcement a lot more meat has been put on the bones. There is a roadmap of three stages we might move to if the small steps we take do not cause a rise in transmission of the virus above what is called a R rate of more than one. The key milestones are this week, June 1st and July 4th, or in fact no earlier than those dates.
So for the phase we have entered today people are still being encouraged to stay at home whenever possible but there are some new freedoms. Those who cannot work from home are now allowed, even encouraged, to go to work. This is providing they can work in line with social distancing guidelines, travel within the same guidelines and they are not displaying any virus symptoms. Public transport should be avoided if possible. There are also new leisure freedoms. Outdoor exercise is unlimited and you may travel to take such exercise, you may even sunbathe or sit in a park or a beach. Again social distancing is paramount, you may meet one other person maintaining social distancing. You cannot stay somewhere else overnight though and holidays or weekends away are not allowed. Some sport, with restrictions, is allowed, golf, tennis, basketball and angling. Only two people may play golf or tennis and social distancing must be maintained. Golf is not really competitive, bunkers are out of play, the hole is actually not really a hole and the flag must not be touched. Not really golf but good for exercise, practice and mental well being. Garden centres have opened to the delight of many, as have recycling tips.
Today it was announced that the housing market is to open. Estate agents, under strict guidelines may arrange viewings and people are now allowed to move home which has been banned under lockdown.
If things go well over the next two weeks and the 'R' stays below one there may be a limited number of children allowed to return to school. Then a month later, again if all is going well, retail, restaurants, gyms even some pubs may be allowed to open. All of this is a long way off and will still be with restrictions and social distancing. The message is small steps at a time and any increase in infections will result in lockdown being reintroduced either nationally or locally. All of this currently applies to England only, the devolved governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have changed nothing at this point. They will no doubt follow suit shortly but for now, as all are politically opposed to the Westminster government, they are flexing their little muscles for a few days. I find it pretty pathetic but devolution is what their citizens voted for so I guess it is only right. It will be interesting if it strengthens them in their publics opinions or not.
Although the changes are relatively small they are already changing our behaviour and I think most people are holding their breath praying that these changes do not undo the containment of the virus that has been achieved over the last seven weeks. Time will tell. I was thinking today about what it was like in early March, the difference is amazing. I remember when we stopped shaking hands but touched elbows or did a namaste instead, being that close to someone you do not live with is unthinkable now. It is surprising what you get used to. Now we are entering another new world against a backdrop that it may not last. More frightening than a brave new world but if the next couple of weeks go well there will be some relief.