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What’s the timeline for lifting lockdown in the UK?

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed in remarkable detail his four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown in the coming months of 2021. These crucial steps are expected to be followed by all members of the public until the end of June. At which point, the complete lifting of lockdown will depend on several factors including the number of COVID-19 cases, rate of transmission and mortality rate. In this article by Pacific Prime UK, we will provide an outline of these 4 crucial steps, as well as an overview of the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

(Note: Lockdown rules will also change accordingly for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the weeks and months progress.)

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Step 1: 8 March and 29 March

The first step will include the following:

Reopening of education establishments

  • From 8th March, all schools and colleges will reopen so students and young adults can return to continue their studies. University students will also be allowed to return for practical courses, and after-school sports and activities outdoors will also be allowed to promote physical exercise for students.
  • Getting students in schools and educational establishments will also alleviate the scale of mental health issues that young people have been facing across the country since the beginning of the pandemic in the UK. With students returning to a ‘new normal’ and meeting their peers and teachers, these mental health issues can be addressed and help offered.
  • As a precautionary measure, face coverings will be recommended in classes for all secondary school students, and also for parents and staff in primary schools. While social-distance measures will help keep students from gathering too close and maintaining good controls for reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Staying at home with a few exceptions

  • Even as students are allowed to return, the majority of the population are required to stay at home, but only leave for work, essential shopping, exercise or medical appointments. Between 8th March and 29th March, non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will remain closed. These include pubs and restaurants, but takeaway food from such food and beverage establishments are still allowed. Check with your local delivery service or check one of many food delivery apps to help deliver food and drinks to your home or household.

Further reading for UK employers: HR’s guide to mental health

Childcare permitted

  • Wraparound childcare will also return for vulnerable students and for parents or carers that have to return to work or receive medical care.

Outdoor exercise

  • For those going outdoors to exercise, the rules state doing so only once a day and in your local area only. You can even exercise with a member of your household, support bubble or one other person.

Socializing between different households

  • Only 2 people from different households are able to meet up to socialize for instance to sit on a bench for a coffee. More than two is prohibited to avoid gatherings and the spread of the infection.
  • When indoors or outdoors, household mixing is prohibited unless they are members of your support or childcare bubble. Doing so is in the best interest of family members, especially for senior members that are more at risk to the symptoms of COVID-19.
  • From 29th March, the stay at home rules will officially end and people will be allowed to meet outside, either with one other household or within the well-established “rule of six”, including private gardens and spaces. However, the government urges everyone to stay as local as possible and respect the guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Sporting facilities and wedding venues to open

  • Sporting facilities that are outdoors will reopen and include open spaces such as golf courses, tennis, basketball courts and other field areas used for sport.
  • For engaged couples, weddings can take place and be attended by up to six people. Speak to your wedding venue or wedding organisers to discuss plans and availability.

Step 2: 12 April

The second step will include the following:

All shops to open

  • By around mid-April, all shops will be allowed to open and include hairdressers, beauty salons, as well as “close contact” services. Shops are advised to implement preventative measures such as social distancing and prevent overcrowding where possible.

Public leisure places to open

  • In addition to open spaces, gyms and spas can reopen for individuals, groups and households, along with zoos, theme parks, libraries, community centers and drive-in cinemas. Pubs and restaurants can also add to their takeaway service by opening up their available outdoor serving space for customers and serve alcohol.
  • For couples that prefer more than six people to attend their wedding (as was allowed in Stage 1), the government will, at this stage, allow up to 15 people to attend.

Stage 3: 17 May

The third step will include the following:

Groups of 30 people to meet outdoors

  • By mid-May, stage three of the lifting of lockdown will allow people to meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors, and six people or two households can meet indoors. Pubs and restaurants, as well as other hospitality venues like cafes, can seat customers indoors.

All outdoor entertainment venues to open

  • All remaining outdoor entertainment venues, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open to the public. Indoor entertainment venues can also reopen such as museums, theatres, cinemas and children play spaces. These venues will have their own specific safety measures in place, so it is best to contact these venues prior to visiting.

Up to 30 people for important life events

  • For weddings and other important life events like christenings, up to 30 people can meet to celebrate. Adult indoor sports and gyms can reinstate exercise classes for members.

Hotels, hostels and B&B to open

  • During this period, hotels, hostels, B&Bs of all sizes will be able to reopen and this officially marks the beginning of international leisure travel. Head to your specific airline and check for updates on their bookings, availability and guidance on COVID-19 measures. Likewise, the same should be done for hotels including international chains that may vary according to the country they are in.

(Take note: If travelling across to Europe, be sure to apply for travel insurance. If travelling outside of the EU or returning to a country where the UK does not have a reciprocal healthcare agreement, then you may want to consider getting international health insurance or expat health insurance.)

For further reading: Tips for travelling to the EU in 2021 and Will the EHIC still be valid after Brexit?

Step 4: 21 June

The fourth step will include the following:

  • By 21st June, all legal limits on social contact will be lifted completely. Members of the public will be able to attend large weddings, festivals, and work conferences without social distancing. This will be a crucial moment for health services, as well as the government.

The success of the 4 steps to lifting lockdown completely in England will depend on the following 4 conditions:

1. Vaccine programmes continue to proceed as planned

With demand for the vaccines at a high across the globe, supplies of the vaccines to meet the demand in the UK will depend on the continued efforts of international authorities including the pharmaceutical companies themselves. Members of the public in England are expected to follow COVID-19 prevention measures and adhere to local and regional guidance as they arise. With all things continuing as planned, the largest vaccination in British history will hopefully confirm the lifting of lockdown across not only England but also Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2. Proof of the vaccines reducing mortality

According to BioPharma, the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces the risk of catching the infection by more than 70%, while one dose is 57% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 disease in those aged more than 80, after 3-4 weeks post-injection. If this remains so and across the whole vaccination programme with other vaccines, then the lifting of lockdown will look more likely than ever. (More about the available vaccines in the section below).

3. Infection rates do not spike in hospital admissions

With the NHS struggling to meet the demands of COVID-19 cases, the pressure to keep numbers from burdening hospitals will depend on the effectiveness of the vaccines as mentioned above.

4. New variants of COVID-19 do not impact the timeline

As COVID-19 has mutated and continues to mutate into different variants, the current timeline for England will depend on how quickly the vaccination programme can be applied to the majority of the UK population in order to establish herd immunity. Only by vaccinating and adhering to preventative measures, can potentially more virulent strains of COVID-19 be subdued.

The UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme

According to the BBC, more than 17.9 million people so far have received their first vaccine dose, which is equal to roughly one in three adults in the UK. Of that number, more than 643,000 (mainly the elderly) have had their second dose. The UK is currently administering two vaccines- the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Both of these vaccines are being made in Britain and Belgium, which helps to speed up the delivery and administration of the vaccination programme. Logistically, the facilities across England and Wales, and the connection via the Eurotunnel to Belgium and Brussels Airport, have helped in speeding up the vaccination programme.

So far the UK has ordered more than 400 million of the seven most effective vaccines, including Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Others include Valneva, GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax, CureVac, Janssen, and Moderna (only Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna have been approved).

How are people being vaccinated in 2021?

Members of the public will are vaccinated in three main ways including:

  • Local general practitioner (GP) practices and community pharmacies
  • Hospital Hubs
  • Major vaccination sites across the UK

According to the BBC, there are more than 1,500 vaccination sites in England alone. Larger venues and premises have been transformed into major vaccine sites such as sports centres, racecourses and showgrounds, that are capable of giving jabs to thousands of people a week.

In Wales, the vaccine is available at GP practices and at mobile vaccination units. Additionally, the country plans to have 35 sites open within the coming weeks to fully roll out the country’s vaccination programme.

In Scotland, GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospital hubs are distributing the vaccines, whereas, in Northern Ireland, GP clinics and regional health centres are offering the vaccines. From April, Belfast’s SSE Arena will be transformed into a mass vaccination centre.

Speak to Pacific Prime UK and learn more about health insurance

2020 has proved that health is above all, more precious than anything else in life and having proper protection is essential given uncertain predicaments like pandemics.

Given that people’s health needs are different, it is always recommended to really question what they are. One thing’s for sure, securing health insurance can put you into a better frame of mind when thinking about what is best for your health, while offering you full coverage for the health benefits requested.

Contact an insurance expert today for impartial advice and a free quotation!

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