Boris Johnson is set to make a major announcement this weekend about future plans for a way out of the coronavirus crisis and it will include the easing of lockdown measure in key areas
In his first Prime Minister’s Questions since recovering from Covid-19, Mr Johnson signalled his intention to change social distancing restrictions next week.
Mr Johnson will set out plans for easing the lockdown in a speech on Sunday, with some measures possibly being introduced the following day.
It comes as the total number of deaths involving Covid-19 that have been registered across the UK currently stands at 32,898. However the true figure is believed to be in excess of 55,000.
The news is a seeming turn around from last week when Mr Johnson, who returned to Downing Street last week after recovering from Covid-19, said the country needed to continue its lockdown measures to avoid a second spike in infections.
However Downing Street stressed today “it is not going to be a case of flicking a switch” to lift all measures at once, instead “people will have to prepare for a different type of normal”.
“We have to be sure the data is going to support our ability to do this,” Mr Johnson said.
“That data is coming in continuously over the next few days. We want, if we possibly can, to get going with some of these measures on Monday.
“It would be a good thing if the people had an idea of what’s coming the following day, that’s why I think Sunday, the weekend, is the best time to do it.”
In an indication of the changed approach, Public Health England signalled the “stay home” message could be abandoned.
A PHE spokesman said: “We are reviewing all communications materials in anticipation of moving to the next phase of the Government campaign.”
Ministers are also drawing up plans for how workplaces can be adapted, outdoor spaces can be managed and public transport can operate with social distancing measures in place.
Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested as lockdown measures are eased, the public could even return to using pavement cafes.
“There is strong evidence that outdoors the spread is much, much lower, so there may be workarounds that some businesses, for instance cafes, especially over the summer, may be able to put into place,” he told Sky News.
He added that experts are looking at how about two million vulnerable people who are shielding can be given more freedom before a vaccine is found, potentially allowing them to “hug their grandchildren”.
However until Sunday the details of what this may mean for individuals and communities remain vague.
There have been a whole number of reports regarding what will and won’t be happening next week, and we’ve put together a list of the 9 restrictions most likely to be eased on Monday.
MyLondon report the most likely lockdown measures to be lifted include nine of the following:
1. More shops may reopen
A number of chains have started to reopen – such as B&Q and Pret a Manger – but with very different measures.
Perhaps more cafes will start to open offering takeaways only, and only allowing a couple of customers inside at a time.
2. Outdoor activities may resume
It has been made clear that one of the most likely restrictions to be eased first is to do with outdoor activities, as there is less risk of transmission here than indoors.
At the moment you’re allowed to go for a run, but perhaps you’ll be allowed to do things such as group exercise in parks, as long as you maintain social distance.
3. Outdoor workplaces could get back to business
As with outdoor exercise, outdoor working will have less chance of transmission that indoors.
Building sites were never told to close under lockdown guidance – as long as two metres could be kept between workers – so the government is expected to make a renewed push for people to return to work there.
4. New train timetables and more made available
As restrictions are eased there will no doubt be more people on public transport.
To ensure we don’t see overcrowded Tubes it’s likely that the number of trains in circulation will slowly rise.
New timetables will be introduced as planned in May, even though trains will not run to them straight away.
5. Supermarket opening hours
Supermarkets are one of the only things to have remained open during lockdown, and we might see changes coming in that sphere.
Opening hours could be increased on Sunday to reduce overcrowding, with Boris Johnson saying he’s looking at relaxing Sunday trading laws to reduce queues on the weekend.
6. Driving and picnics
People will be allowed to drive to the countryside and have picnics, according to the Mail on Sunday.
You’d still have to be with members of your own household and keep two metres away from other groups.
No10 did not comment on the Mail’s report but ministers and scientists have repeatedly said outdoor gatherings look to be less risky than those indoors.
7. ‘Bubbles’ of up to ten possibly allowed
You’ve probably heard of this one – rather than being restricted to your household you may be able to form a ‘bubble’ of up to ten people.
This means close friends and family who don’t live together would be able to meet up, although it would have to be the same people day-to-day, week-to-week.
Reports say the idea is one being mulled by the UK government.
8. Local cricket and local football returning
While major sports events and mass gatherings will be one of the last things to be allowed, some smaller sports may return – as long as spectators can stay in the open air.
9. Routine NHS services resumed
The NHS has been adamant at stressing people should seek medical attention if necessary, and not to worry about coming to A&E because of coronavirus.
Some routine operations and fertility treatments have already been restored as hospital inpatients fell for several weeks in a row.
It’s not yet clear when other services will continue, but some that don’t involve too much contact may resume soon.