Last week I wrote about re-opening schools in Central Devon and I am grateful to the hard-working teachers across our constituency who are busy preparing for Monday. Other changes from Monday include people being able to leave home for recreation outdoors (such as a coffee or a picnic) with their household or one person outside their household. Care home residents will be allowed one regular visitor and some university students on practical courses can return to face to face learning.
The next big date will be March 29th when most schools break up for Easter. Outdoor gatherings of either 6 people or 2 households should then be allowed, including in gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis courts and golf courses can reopen and people can take part in formally organised outdoor sports. This couldn’t be timed any better for the cricket season in Devon with pre-season matches in April able to go ahead and the league season able to begin as planned on the first Saturday in May. Football can also return and while I don’t expect all the matches lost over the winter to be rescheduled, hopefully a month or two of matches will allow teams to get together again and enjoy the sport they love. It won’t be the same – pints at the bar afterwards will still have to wait – but getting back on the pitch is a welcome first step.
Step 2 of our road map to normality should begin on 12th April but depends on our outstanding vaccination programme continuing at pace and new variants not suddenly posing new risks. It also depends on infection rates among unvaccinated people not putting unsustainable pressure on our NHS. Assuming these criteria are met, outdoor attractions, non-essential retail, personal care premises (such as hairdressers) and public buildings (such as libraries and community centres), will be able to reopen. Indoor leisure facilities will also reopen but only for use by people on their own or with their household. Hospitality venues will be able to serve food and drink outdoors and self-contained accommodation, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can reopen. Further steps to ease restrictions should take place in May and June (subject to the same criteria) and I will write about these closer to the time.
I know that for some the timeline of lifting restrictions will be too soon and to others it won’t be soon enough, but the Government is right to be cautious and to follow best available evidence and data.
A final plea - please get vaccinated when you are offered one. The evidence is crystal clear that being vaccinated reduces the likelihood of becoming seriously ill if you catch Covid and you are also helping to protect others because vaccinated people appear less likely to transmit the virus. Every hospitalisation that can be avoided alleviates the burden on our NHS and helps others get the treatment or have the operation that they need.