I know everyone will be as thrilled I am that finally we have a credible route out of this ghastly lockdown. After this truly dreadful year, every citizen of this country yearns for this to be the lockdown finale. With that in mind, I was very encouraged by the roadmap set out by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on Monday 22nd February and commend the government for taking a cautious, measured approach towards the goal of an irreversible return to normality.
We simply cannot afford at this stage to take avoidable risks with peoples’ lives and livelihoods after the undoubted pain inflicted by the virus and some of the necessary measures to combat it. Therefore, I support the government’s approach to relaxing restrictions in incremental stages after careful assessment of the impact of each step; before deciding on whether slower or faster actions can be taken. In light of the positive signs emerging from the daily data on combating the virus and vaccine effectiveness, I hope very much that the timetable can be brought forward so that freedom can come to us all much sooner!
I never gave the slightest credence to the vast array of armchair epidemiologists and conspiracy theorists who screamed from the side-lines that we would end up in a permanent state of lockdown, even when confronted with the irrefutable success of the vaccination programme. The government’s plan, laying out carefully calibrated steps towards freedom, has shown them up for the cranks they always were. An outcome I very much welcome!
The roadmap has four stages, which I will briefly outline.
- Step one: all pupils return to schools in England on 8 March and two people from different households are allowed to meet outside socially. From 29 March, the stay at home order will lift so that people can meet family members in a park or garden, and outdoor sports facilities can reopen.
- Step two: from 12 April, hairdressers and non-essential shops can reopen, as well as self-catering accommodation, libraries and outdoor hospitality such as pub gardens.
- Step three: most rules on outdoor social contact will be lifted, with gatherings limited to 30 people. Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors. Sports venues can admit up to 10,000 fans or a quarter of capacity, whichever is lower, and music acts can perform to an audience of up to 1,000 people, or half a venue’s capacity, and indoor museums will reopen.
- Step four: from 21 June, all limits on socialising should be lifted and the final entertainment sectors should be able to reopen.
The ban on international travel will continue until at least 17 May, whilst ministers carry out a review of how travel inbound and outbound can safely resume.
From my briefing with Bromley Council this morning I gather that we are doing pretty well at getting everyone vaccinated. I will put the facts in tabular form:
- Over 80 + years old: 92.1% vaccinated
- 75-79 years old: 91.8% vaccinated
- 70 – 74 years old: 90.4 % vaccinated
- Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People: 76.5% vaccinated
- 65 – 69 years old: 81.4% vaccinated
- 60 – 64 years old: starting to be vaccinated
- Care home residents: 91% vaccinated (although sadly only 44% of care home staff have accepted the vaccine)
Everyone who is elderly and self-isolating has now been reached. The reasons why figures of vaccinations are not even higher are mainly twofold; some people refuse to be vaccinated and others cannot have it because of their clinical vulnerability.
All 9 top tier groups are expected to have had at least one vaccination by mid April. The momentum of vaccinations is going to get even faster soon as vaccine supplies are expected to have doubled within two weeks. This is seriously good news.
I end with a plea to continue to follow the rules and to get vaccinated when you are called upon to do so, in order that we can bring about a faster resumption of normal life and unlock the amazing potential which this great country of ours has to offer.
(The attached photograph was taken when asking Matt Hancock a question about priorities in the local vaccination programme.)