Prime Minister Boris Johnson tonight made a speech to the UK in which he said that at the earliest by July, the UK hospitality industry could start to reopen, along with other public places.
This would be the third step of a roadmap to re-open the country, and Johnson underlined that this would only happen if all coronavirus pandemic reduction conditions were met, subject to further scientific advice.
These conditions comprise:
- Sufficient critical care capacity available across the UK
- Sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths
- Rate of infection decreasing
- Testing and PPE able to meet demand
- Adjustments to measures will not risk a second peak that overwhelms the NHS
The Prime Minister further announced a new Covid alert system, which will be determined by the rate of coronavirus infection plus the number of cases.
Run by a new joint biosecurity centre, the alert level will indicate how tough social distancing measures should be, with levels spanning 1-5, 1 being the lowest when no coronavirus cases are present in the UK and 5 the highest, where infection numbers threaten to overwhelm the NHS. Johnson believes that the UK has been at 4 on the scale but is now ready to take steps to reduce that to 3.
He also stated that the new system should be able to track local flare-ups of the virus, as well as giving a national picture.
While he detailed that lockdown will continue, he reported that the government is modifying its measures for step one of easing the rules. “Anyone who can’t work from home, for instance, those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work,” he said, though he urged these workers to avoid public transport and instead either travel by car, bike or walk, as well as maintaining social distancing. He also noted that the government is working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces “Covid secure”.
However, he made no mention of whether this easement will affect any of the government’s coronavirus financial assistance packages, such as the furloughing scheme.
From Wednesday, measures will be further eased, with unlimited outdoor exercise allowed as well as sitting in the park or driving to other destinations, or playing sports with members of your own household, though he emphasised that everyone should still socially distance, and fines will be increased for those who do not obey the rules.
Johnson planned step two of the rules relaxation, at the earliest by 1 June, involving a phased reopening of shops and schools.
Currently 31,855 UK citizens have died from the coronavirus, with 219,000 officially recorded as testing positive for Covid-19. Johnson reported that the current infection rate is between 0.5 and 0.9, less than one transmission per infected person, but that the situation remains precarious.