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PM announces "first careful steps" to modify lockdown measures

11 May 2020

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a number of modifications in a bid to prepare a pathway for the end of the Coronavirus lockdown.

In an address to the nation, broadcast on Sunday 10 May, the Prime Minister announced a "change of emphasis,' and encouraged anyone who can't work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing, to go to work.

He said: "And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.

"So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home. And when you do go to work, if possible do so by car or - even better - by walking or [by] bicycle. But, just as with workplaces, public transport operators will also be following COVID-secure standards."

To ensure people's safety at work the government has been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure.

From Wednesday 13 May, the Prime Minister encouraged people to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise, but only with household members and obeying the rules on social distancing. To enforce those rules, the government will increase the fines for anyone who breaks them.

He continued: "Every day, with ever increasing data, we will be monitoring the R and the number of new infections, and the progress we are making, and if we as a nation begin to fulfil the conditions I have set out, then in the next few weeks and months we may be able to go further.

"In step two – at the earliest by June 1 – after half term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

"Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays. And we will shortly be setting out detailed guidance on how to make it work in schools and shops and on transport."

The third step is a plan to re-open some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing. The Prime Minister reiterated that this couldn't happen until July at the earliest, and would be subject to all these conditions and further scientific advice.

He said: "Throughout this period of the next two months we will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity. We are going to be driven by the science, the data and public health.

"And I must stress again that all of this is conditional, it all depends on a series of big Ifs. It depends on all of us – the entire country – to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that R down."

In a bid to prevent re-infection from abroad, the Prime Minister announced plans to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.

Media implications

The Prime Minister's statement came after a number of newspapers had published articles implying that there would be a much more widespread liberation from lockdown. Journalist, Robert Peston, tweeted that this resulted in “huge anxiety” at the top of government about these articles.

In response, Dr Andrew ~Kemp, head of the Scientific Advisory Board at the British Institute of Cleaning Science, said: “I do not trust the regulatory/government advice around the kill claims of hand sanitiser or disinfectant products not tested directly against COVID-19.  

"I would either not use a product that hasn’t been tested directly against this virus, or if I had no choice but to use one that hasn’t been tested, I would continue to assume that the surface or hands are potentially still contaminated and continue to take the same precautions as before.
“If we do start to come out of lockdown, the most effective way of protecting ourselves will be great hand hygiene and fastidious disinfection of surfaces with products that have been directly tested against COVID-19, not a surrogate or similar virus.

“I believe the best use for masks when we come out of lockdown, is for people with any signs of any respiratory infection to wear them. This informs everyone that 'I am infected, stay clear'. 

"This for many years was a quiet way of socially isolating people with active transmissible infections, potentially reducing the spread of respiratory infections. This worked very well in China for a number of years. The rest of us should leave masks for use by healthcare workers and vulnerable groups.”