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UK Gov COVID-19 recovery strategy - Chap 4. Roadmap to lift restrictions step-by- step


Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy


The Government’s roadmap for how and when the UK will adjust its response to the COVID-19 crisis.



Chapter 4. Our roadmap to lift restrictions step-by- step


The Government has a carefully planned timetable for lifting restrictions, with dates that should help people to plan. This timetable depends on successfully controlling the spread of the virus; if the evidence shows sufficient progress is not being made in controlling the virus then the lifting of restrictions may have to be delayed.


We cannot predict with absolute certainty what the impact of lifting restrictions will be. If, after lifting restrictions, the Government sees a sudden and concerning rise in the infection rate then it may have to re-impose some restrictions. It will seek to do so in as limited and targeted a way as possible, including reacting by re-imposing restrictions in specific geographic areas or in limited sectors where it is proportionate to do so.


Step One


The changes to policy in this step will apply from Wednesday 13 May in England. As the rate of infection may be different in different parts of the UK, this guidance should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Work


For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. This will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible. All those who work are contributing taxes that help pay for the healthcare provision on which the UK relies. People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.


All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed. 22


As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, as set out in the previous chapter, which will be published this week. These will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods.


It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households.


Schools


The rate of infection remains too high to allow the reopening of schools for all pupils yet. However, it is important that vulnerable children (including children in need, those with an Education, Health and Care plan and those assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities)23 and the children of critical workers are able to attend school, as is currently permitted. Approximately 2% of children are attending school in person24 , although all schools are working hard to deliver lessons remotely.


But there is a large societal benefit from vulnerable children, or the children of critical workers, attending school: local authorities and schools should therefore urge more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so.


The Government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles at Annex A, because these are roles where working from home is not possible. This should enable more working parents to return to work.


Travel


While most journeys to work involve people travelling either by bike, by car or on foot, public transport takes a significant number of people to work across the country, but particularly in urban centres and at peak times. As more people return to work, the number of journeys on public transport will also increase. This is why the Government is working with public transport providers to bring services back towards pre-COVID-19 levels as quickly as possible. This roadmap takes the impact on public transport into account in the proposed phased easing of measures.


When travelling everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact. It is important many more people can easily travel around by walking and cycling, so the Government will increase funding and provide new statutory guidance to encourage local authorities to widen pavements, create pop-up cycle lanes, and close some roads in cities to traffic (apart from buses) as some councils are already proposing.


Social distancing guidance on public transport must be followed rigorously. As with workplaces, transport operators should follow appropriate guidance to make their services COVID-19 Secure; this will be published this week.


Face-coverings


As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people's immediate household. This increased mobility means 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. Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against
inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.


A face covering is not the same as a facemask such as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers. These supplies must continue to be reserved for those who need it. Face-coverings should not be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions. It is important to use facecoverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.25


Public spaces


SAGE advise that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside, so 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; continued compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain two metres (6ft) away from people outside your household; good hand hygiene, particularly with respect to shared surfaces; and those responsible for public places being able to put appropriate measures in place to follow the new COVID-19 Secure guidance.


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. You can only exercise with up to one person from outside your household – this means you should not play team sports, except with members of your own household.


People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there, because this does not involve contact with people outside your household.


When travelling to outdoor spaces, 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.


These measures may come with some risk; it is important that everyone continues to act responsibly, as the large majority have done to date. The infection rate will increase if people begin to break these rules and, for example, mix in groups in parks, which will trigger the need for further restrictions.


Protecting the clinically vulnerable


It remains the case that some people are more clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. These include those aged over 70, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions and pregnant women.26 These clinically vulnerable people should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded.


Those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact; this is called ‘shielding’. It means not leaving the house or attending gatherings at all, with very limited exceptions. Annex B sets out more detail on the guidance applicable to different vulnerable groups at this time.


The Government knows people are taking shielding advice seriously and is acutely aware of the huge commitment and resolve it requires to keep away from family and friends. Unfortunately, the current level of transmission of the virus is such that the Government needs to continue to ask that the guidance is followed. In recognition of the challenge faced by those shielding, the Government is:


Providing essential food to those unable to leave their home. Over one million food boxes have now been delivered in England by wholesalers to those shielding who asked for help with food, with hundreds of thousands more to follow in the coming weeks.27 The Government has also arranged priority access to supermarket deliveries for those who have said they need it.


Facilitating volunteer support. Up to 200,000 calls a day have been made to the shielded in England to confirm their support needs,28 and councils are helping to support them in other ways - including, in some cases, organising regular calls from volunteers to those isolated. Those who are shielding can also directly request the support of NHS Volunteer Responders.


The Government is also aware that when – in time – other members of society return to aspects of their normal daily lives, the challenge for those being asked to shield may deepen. The Government will continue to review the support needs of those shielding and the Government will continue to provide support to individuals for as long as they need its direct help.


Along with the support the Government is providing to those shielding, it will provide vital support for other vulnerable people, such as those at risk of loneliness. The Government is continuing to work to further support these groups, including by providing vital financial support to frontline charities working in these areas. The GOV.UK website provides information about the huge range of support that is available including from local authorities and the voluntary and community sector. The Government will continue to update GOV.UK as new services and support become available.


As the UK recovers, the Government will ensure people with disabilities can have independent lives and are not marginalised. This will include making sure that they can access public services and will consider their needs as the Government creates safe work environments and reopen the transport system. The Government will ensure their overall health outcomes do not suffer disproportionately.



Enforcement


The Government is examining more stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance, as it has seen in many other countries. The Government will impose higher fines to reflect the increased risk to others of breaking the rules as people are returning to work and school. The Government will seek to make clearer to the public what is and is not allowed.


Parliament


It is vital that Parliament can continue to scrutinise the Government, consider the Government’s ambitious legislative agenda and legislate to support the COVID-19 response. Parliament must set a national example of how business can continue in this new normal; and it must move, in step with public health guidance, to get back to business as part of this next step, including a move towards further physical proceedings in the House of Commons.


International travel


As the level of infection in the UK reduces, and the Government prepares for social contact to increase, it will be important to manage the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from abroad.


Therefore, in order to keep overall levels of infection down and in line with many other countries, the Government will introduce a series of measures and restrictions at the UK border. This will contribute to keeping the overall number of transmissions in the UK as low as possible. First, alongside increased information about the UK’s social distancing regime at the border, the Government will require all international arrivals to supply their contact and accommodation information. They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app.


Second, the Government will require all international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government. The Government is working closely with the devolved administrations to coordinate implementation across the UK.


Small exemptions to these measures will be in place to provide for continued security of supply into the UK and so as not to impede work supporting national security or critical infrastructure and to meet the UK’s international obligations. All journeys within the Common Travel Area will also be exempt from these measures.


These international travel measures will not come into force on 13 May but will be introduced as soon as possible. Further details, and guidance, will be set out shortly, and the measures and list of exemptions will be kept under regular review.



Step Two


The content and timing of the second stage of adjustments will depend on the most up-to-date assessment of the risk posed by the virus. The five tests set out in the first chapter must justify changes, and they must be warranted by the current alert level.


They will be enabled by the programmes set out in the next chapter and, in particular, by continuing to bolster test and trace capabilities, protect care homes and support the clinically extremely vulnerable. It is possible that the dates set out below will be delayed if these conditions are not met. Changes will be announced at least 48 hours before coming into effect.


To aid planning, the Government's current aim is that the second step will be made no earlier than Monday 1 June, subject to these conditions being satisfied. Until that time the restrictions currently in place around the activities below will continue.


The Government will work with the devolved administrations to ensure that the changes for step two and beyond are coordinated across the UK. However, there may be circumstances where different measures will be lifted at different times depending on the variance in rate of transmission across the UK.


The current planning assumption for England is that the second step may include as many of the following measures as possible, consistent with the five tests. Organisations should prepare accordingly.


A phased return for early years settings and schools. Schools should prepare to begin to open for more children from 1 June. The Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point. This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers. Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning. The Government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept
under review. The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.


Opening non-essential retail when and where it is safe to do so, and subject to those retailers being able to follow the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. The intention is for this to happen in phases from 1 June; the Government will issue further guidance shortly on the approach that will be taken to phasing, including which businesses will be covered in each phase and the timeframes involved. All other sectors that are currently closed, including hospitality and personal care, are not able to re-open at this point because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher. The opening of such sectors is likely to take place in phases during step three, as set out below.


Permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.


Re-opening more local public transport in urban areas, subject to strict measures to limit as far as possible the risk of infection in these normally crowded spaces.


Social and family contact


Since 23 March the Government has asked people to only leave the house for very limited purposes and this has been extraordinarily disruptive to people's lives.


In particular this has affected the isolated and vulnerable, and those who live alone. As restrictions continue, the Government is considering a range of options to reduce the most harmful social effects to make the measures more sustainable.


For example, the Government has asked SAGE to examine whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group.29


The intention of this change would be to allow those who are isolated some more social contact, and to reduce the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions, while continuing to limit the risk of chains of transmission. It would also support some families to return to work by, for example, allowing two households to share childcare.30


This could be based on the New Zealand model of household "bubbles" where a single "bubble" is the people you live with.31 As in New Zealand, the rationale behind keeping household groups small is to limit the number of social contacts people have and, in particular, to limit the risk of interhousehold transmissions.32


In addition, the Government is also examining how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings.


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.


Step Three


The next step will also take place when the assessment of risk warrants further adjustments to the remaining measures. The Government's current planning assumption is that this step will be no earlier than 4 July, subject to the five tests justifying some or all of the measures below, and further detailed scientific advice, provided closer to the time, on how far we can go.


The ambition at this step is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas). They should also meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part. Nevertheless the Government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.


In order to facilitate the fastest possible re-opening of these types of higher-risk businesses and public places, the Government will carefully phase and pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. The Government will also monitor carefully the effects of reopening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world, as this happens. The Government will establish a series of taskforces to work closely with stakeholders in these sectors to develop ways in which they can make these businesses and public places COVID-19 Secure.




22 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance


23 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-andcarers/closure-of-educational-settings-information-for-parents-and-carers


24 Coronavirus (COVID-19): attendance in education and early years settings


25 ANNEX A: Staying Safe Outside Your Home


26 The list of those who are clinically vulnerable can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-thers/fullguidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others#eel-decline


27 The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government


28 The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government


29 It is not OK to be in multiple household groups: if Household A merges with B, Household B cannot also elect to be in a group with Household C. This would create a chain that would allow the virus to spread widely 


30 The potential effects of this change on the rate of transmission are to be examined.

31 https://covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/alert-level-3/

32 This concept is explained in this ‘building your bubble’ explainer from the New Zealand Government:
https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/


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