Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council have welcomed the Government’s roadmap to cautiously ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The roadmap outlines four steps (listed below) for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of previous steps.
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.
The Government’s Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser have made clear that this will give adequate time to assess the impact of each step and reduce the risk of having to re-impose restrictions at a later date.
Lockdown measures will be relaxed gradually
Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for adult social care, public health and climate change, said:
“The Government’s roadmap for cautiously easing Lockdown restrictions in England gives us all hope after what has been a challenging few months for both our residents and local businesses.
“This is certainly a step in the right direction and gives us all something to aim towards – but if we drop our guard, we’ll be back to square one. It is important to remember that some people who develop COVID-19 will not have symptoms and that a new virus strain, which spreads more easily, is circulating in the West Midlands.
“It’s important to stress Lockdown measures will be relaxed gradually, and we all need to continue playing out part by sticking to the rules to help get our cases down even further.
“The safety of school pupils and staff is our main priority. We are working with schools and planning for a proposed return to school for all pupils from Monday 8 March.
“Our education teams are working very closely with headteachers, and I’d like to thank staff and parents for their continued support during a hugely difficult time. We will now review the situation on a weekly basis and continue to keep parents informed of key developments.
“Lockdown restrictions still remain in place and we are here to help.”
Long road ahead
Rachel Robinson, Shropshire Council’s director of public health, said:
“The figures for the number of people with COVID-19 in Shropshire have been declining in recent weeks, which is encouraging news. This is down to the collective efforts of all our residents, and I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone for all the sacrifices they continue to make.
“However, our cases rate still remains high and we have a long road ahead. We’ve seen before what happens when we relax too soon and how quickly the virus can spread when we let our guard down.
“The news that we now have a gradual route out of Lockdown will be welcomed by many of our residents, but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
“With the collective efforts of everyone, we can drive down the levels of COVID-19 in Shropshire even further before Lockdown eases.”
First step towards a phased return to normality
Telford & Wrekin Council leader, Cllr Shaun Davies, said:
“We welcome the news that restrictions will begin to gradually be lifted over the coming weeks and months. This is the first step towards a phased return to normality.
“I urge all of our residents to continue to be cautious – so as not to compromise all the efforts and sacrifices we have had to make to protect ourselves and others during this lockdown. As a community we need this to be the last lockdown.
“Case numbers in Telford and Wrekin continue to be above the regional and national averages which is concerning. We all need to do our best to limit the spread, comply with the national guidance and not let our guard down too soon.
“We will look at the detail as it emerges in the hours and days ahead. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to keep our residents, community and businesses up to date.
“Please keep in mind that our schools will be hearing this news for the first time along with us all. They will be digesting these rules and reading and understanding the guidelines and will no doubt be in touch with families as quickly as possible.
“As a council we are calling on the government to extend support to businesses and look to extend the job retention scheme (furlough) and help many of those who have been excluded from support to date.”
Roadmap to lockdown restrictions
From 8 March:
– All schools to reopen
– Outdoor school sports and activities allowed to resume
– People allowed outdoors recreationally on a one-plus-one basis (socially-distanced)
– Funerals can have up to 30 people
From 29 March:
– Up to six people from two households allowed in outdoor spaces
– Outdoor sports facilities to reopen (eg tennis courts, basketball courts)
– Organised adult or children’s sports activities can return
– Outdoor child and parent groups can return (up to 15 parents)
After five weeks of Step 1, no earlier than 12 April:
– Non-essential retail to reopen
– Outdoor hospitality can reopen
– Gyms and indoor leisure open for individual use
– Hairdressers and personal care services can reopen
– Outdoor attractions such as zoos, drive-through cinemas and theme parks can reopen
– Driving lessons can restart
– Funeral wakes, weddings and receptions can have up to 15 people
After five weeks of Step 2, no earlier than 17 May:
– Indoor hospitality, with no requirement for a substantial meal to be served alongside alcoholic drinks, and no curfew. The requirement to order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’) will remain
– 30 person limit outdoors – Rule of Six will apply indoors (subject to conditions)
– International travel may be allowed (subject to conditions)
– Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can reopen
– Indoor entertainment, such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas, can reopen
– Remaining accommodation, such as hotels, hostels and B&Bs, can reopen
– Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes allowed
– Significant life events – allow up to 30 people
After at least five weeks of Step 3, no earlier than 21 June:
– Remove all legal limits on social contact, allowing people to meet indoors
– Nightclubs and theatres allowed to reopen (subject to conditions)
– All limits on weddings and other life events removed
The four conditions that must be met at each phase of Lockdown easing are:
– The COVID-19 vaccine programme continues to go to plan
– Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment
– Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions
– New variants of the virus do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.