John Szepietowski Reviews the future of coronavirus restrictions in the United Kingdom

Last night the Prime Minister addressed the nation on the current statistics of the pandemic and the implications of the current restrictions in place. Boris Johnson cautiously detailed the intended plans for the United Kingdom to ease restrictions and return to a modicum of normality.  With the nation divided between increasing freedom for its citizens and securing further lockdown measures in order to protect the vulnerable, the news brings a message of both hope and concern.

The Prime Minister outlined the efficacy data for the vaccinations and reassured the public that the vaccine is fundamental in returning to life as such was prior to the pandemic. The emphasis has been placed on relying on the statistics in order to reduce measures in place. The government-issued timeline provides one month between each stage for the coronavirus statistics to be analysed and an additional one-week notice period for the public to adequately prepare for the upcoming restrictions.

The government has published the ‘roadmap’ showing a guideline of when restrictions are expected to lift, however, has cautioned that prior to each stage an assessment will be undertaken of the available data. The assessment is quadrigeminal and takes into account the success of administering the vaccine; the hospitalisations and deaths of those vaccinated; the infection rates and the subsequent burden on the National Health Service; and, potentially new variants of the virus.

The primary aim for the first stage of the roadmap is ensuring children are able to return to face to face teaching in primary and secondary schools as well as in institutions providing practical based higher education. This initial easement of restrictions is diarised to take place on 8 March 2021. Furthermore, from this date, one person will be allowed to visit a care home resident provided they test negative for the virus. The Stay at Home mantra will remain in effect however, outdoor recreation such as having a picnic with one member from another household will be acceptable. As the weather is set to improve after the recent snowfall, it is hopeful that outdoor activities will lift the nation’s spirit during this trying time. This will be more so present from 29th March when outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be permissible and the Stay at Home scheme will be lifted.

Moving forward, the secondary stage is not expected to be implemented prior to 12 April, when non-essential retail establishments will return to business. Further outdoor arenas will be opened such as alfresco dining and recreational parks and animal enclosures. Social distancing measures are set to stay in place including the two metre rule and personal protective equipment will remain a necessity where possible.   Limited indoor facilities such as gymnasiums and hotels will be allowed to reopen their doors however, will be constrained to use by individual households.

The penultimate stage is intended to commence on 17 May when outdoor activities limited to thirty participants will be permissible, this includes life events such as weddings and funerals. Furthermore, the rule of six will be reimplemented for all indoor activities such as entertainment venues and exercise classes. Indoor nightclubs have not been specified as able to reopen at this stage. However, outdoor and indoor venues such as sports arenas will be allowed to function at half capacity up to a maximum of one thousand attendees for indoor arenas, and four thousand attendees for outdoor arenas.

The final stage, envisioned to be instigated not prior to 21 June, is the complete removal of all pre-existing social distancing rules and limitations with the hope that pre-lockdown society will make a triumphant return.

Please contact John Szepietowski at Audley Chaucer for details on this matter or any other legal topic

Larissa Bourgi

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