This was a busy week for the pandemic, with both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon laying out their respective roadmaps out of lockdown in England and Scotland.
On Monday, Boris Johnson struck the more optimistic tone when he outlined his plan for exiting lockdown in England. Speaking in the commons, Johnson hailed new data that showed the vaccines were having a “spectacular” impact on stopping serious illness. He added that the roadmap was driven by “date, not dates” and was intended to be “irreversible”.
The plan is as follows:
In England from 8th March - All schools will open and recreation in public parks will be allowed, with two people being allowed to meet and sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic.
From 29th March - Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. Organises adult and children’s sport will also return alongside the opening of outdoor sports facilities such as tennis courts.
From 12th April (earliest possible date) - A major reopening of the economy could commence with non-essential retail and hairdressers opening. Outdoor settings such as beer gardens and zoos could reopen with groups of six or two household allowed to meet in them. Gyms, swimming pools and self-contained holiday accommodation could also reopen.
From 17th May (earliest possible date) - In outdoor settings most if not all social contact rules could be lifted and six people or two households could meet indoors. Indoor hospitality and hotels could be set to open their doors once again.
Johnson also dropped the headline grabbing date of the 21st June as the earliest possible date for the lifting of all legal limits on social contact and other sectors of the economy, such as nightclubs, reopening.
In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon set out a much more cautious plan that only detailed easing up to the end of April. Although she acknowledged that this plan could be sped up if the data allowed for it, she added that the new variant of the virus - thought to be more transmissible - meant that Scotland remained in a precarious position. Unlike Johnson who has ditched the tier system in favour of national easing, Sturgeon will stick with tiered restrictions.
From 15th March (earliest possible date) - School years 4-7 will return and a “blended learning” model will be introduced for secondary school pupils. A phased return to in-person teaching for universities and colleges will begin and non-contact outdoor sport for children ages 12-17 will be allowed. Additionally, four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors.
From 5th April (earliest possible date) - Stay at home restrictions will be lifted and schools will reopen fully. Six people from two households will be able to meet outdoors.
From 26th April (earliest possible date) - Scotland will return to tiered levels of covid restrictions, with the expectation that all regions will enter at least tier 3. Non-essential retail, pubs and restaurant will be able to reopen, albeit with restrictions such as curfews and alcohol bans. Gyms, swimming pools and other leisure activities will resume.
Following the outlining of the roadmaps by both leaders, the UK Covid alert level was dropped from level five to level four as the threat to the NHS from the virus receded.
Cases as well as deaths and hospital admissions continue to fall with 9,938 new cases recorded on Wednesday. Overall, 12,634 fewer covid cases this week were recored than in the previous week.