The Government has today announced the first of a four-step roadmap to take England out of national lockdown restrictions.
The first step in the roadmap plan is the reopening of all schools – both primary and secondary schools and further education colleges – from Monday 8 March.
Alongside reopening schools, 8 March will also signal changes to the care home guidance, allowing residents to receive one visitor.
Rules on socialising in a public space will also be relaxed in two weeks’ time, meaning one person can sit down with another individual from outside their household or bubble for a coffee, drink or picnic.
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “We welcome the news that the easing of the national lockdown restrictions will begin from 8 March. We will remain vigilant about the spread of the virus. I know that reopening schools and allowing more social interaction will make some people anxious. We have always said that schools are best placed to make decisions about how they reopen to children safely and we will continue to support school staff, parents and children in doing so.
“Many people have struggled financially, emotionally, and mentally during this difficult third lockdown period particularly with restrictions on socialising coupled with the cold, winter months. I know how hard the past months have been on everyone’s lives, relationships, work and mental health, and I want to thank everyone for doing their best in exceptionally challenging circumstances. With the announcement of this roadmap comes the hope that some aspects of our lives can slowly start to return to normal.”
The Government’s roadmap for unlocking England will be set against four key tests that must be met before new restrictions begin to lift.
The national rollout of the vaccination programme will also play a factor in determining what sectors are unlocked and when.
Mayor Rees said: “I look forward to receiving further detail from the Government regarding what the easing of the lockdown restrictions means for our businesses and the wider economy, and emphasise once again the importance of city and place-based leaders having a role in this decision-making framework.
“In the meantime, I want to reassure residents that we will do everything we can to support our communities in transitioning out of lockdown safely. We must remain cautious and not allow good behaviours to slip. Our infection rates in Bristol are steadily decreasing, and we must continue to do everything we can to keep going and lift some of the pressure from our health care services.”
Director for Public Health Christina Gray said: “The easing of national lockdown restrictions from 8 March will be welcome news for many, particularly for those struggling with isolation and loneliness. We understand that this roadmap is being led by data rather than dates, and the appropriate measures to unlock our communities will only be taken once the data suggests it is safe to do so. However, it’s vital throughout this process that we remain vigilant and do not allow our infection rate to rise once again.
“Although this announcement has come today, national lockdown restrictions are still in place for another two weeks. This means we must continue to remember the basic principles of transmission and take those core actions to stem the spread of the virus: stay at home where possible and wash your hands thoroughly and often. If you are leaving the home for essential work or to shop for necessities, please where a face mask and keep distance from others.”
The second phase of reopening will begin as schools break up for the Easter holidays on 29 March, with outdoor gatherings being permitted once again for either up to six people or two households. This will include gatherings in private gardens.
For a detailed breakdown the four step roadmap, visit GOV.UK: COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Support is available through the We Are Bristol free helpline on 0800 694 0184, open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 2pm.
A 24/7 helpline – 0800 012 6549 – is also available for people in Bristol to get immediate emotional and practical mental health support.