oris Johnson said there is “light ahead”for the UK today after earlier revealing his roadmap to bring England out of lockdown.
Mr Johnson, laying his “roadmap” out of lockdown to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, also revealed from April 12 at the earliest shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen. From June 21 at the earliest, all remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted, larger events can go ahead and nightclubs could finally reopen.
At the Downing Street briefing he said vaccinations were leading the UK towards spring and a summer, which “will be seasons of hope, looking and feeling incomparably better for us all.” Mr Johnson has stressed the need to relax restrictions in a “cautious” manner and explained that the Government has set four key tests which must be met before the country can move through each step of the plan.
Sport can begin to plan for the return of fans in the coming months under the ‘road map’ for easing lockdown restrictions, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.
The target of May 17 for allowing at least some fans back into stadiums comes a week before the final day of the Premier League of May 23 – great news for the 10 clubs due to be at home, although others must hope to host test events the previous weekend. The FA Cup final is slated for May 15 and the Championship, League One and League Two seasons wrap up on May 9, but fans could be back for the play-off finals at the end of the month. The Carabao Cup final was moved from February to April in the hope of welcoming fans but still comes too soon. The target of June 21 to lift all restrictions comes midway through the rearranged Euro 2020 finals, and the day before England are due to face the Czech Republic at Wembley. The national stadium is due to host the final of the tournament on July 11.
England begin a two-Test series against New Zealand on June 2 and will now hope to have a number of fans at both Lord’s and Edgbaston. The stands could then be full when they begin a white-ball series against Sri Lanka, with a T20 international in Cardiff on June 23. The target of March 29 for grassroots sport is also good news for the game at local level. An ECB statement read: “The ECB welcomes the Government’s decision to permit grassroots cricket to return across England in time for the start of the 2021 season. We will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government on the return of recreational cricket in Wales.”
Clubs could welcome fans for the final rounds of the Premiership season, which concludes on June 12, although it is much too late for the PRO14 campaign. The British & Irish Lions are due to host Japan at Murrayfield on June 26 – a warm-up for their tour of South Africa, although the status of that trip remains in doubt. Meanwhile, the RFU has welcomed the return of the game at grassroots level from the end of the March.
Rugby League’s summer season should mean fans are on hand for much of the campaign, with seasons starting at various levels between March and May. Stadiums should be full for the highlights of the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in July and the Super League Grand Finals at Old Trafford in October.
The target of June 21 for all restrictions to be lifted could hardly be better timed for Wimbledon, due to begin a week later on June 28. This staple of the British sporting summer was cancelled entirely last year but could now be one of the symbols of a return to normality in the months ahead. The LTA also welcomed the return of the sport at grassroots level but continued to argue for an earlier date. “Clearly tennis is a naturally socially-distanced and safe activity and so we would have liked restrictions to be lifted without delay and made the case for this,” a statement read.
The easing of restrictions will come too soon for the British Masters in mid-May, but fans can look forward to attending the Open Championship at Royal St George in July. The main news for most, of course, is when they might hit the course themselves, but Monday’s announcement was not what England Golf was hoping for. “England Golf is extremely disappointed that the scientific evidence presented to government detailing how the sport can be played in a Covid-secure manner has not resulted in a return to play date earlier than 29 March,” a statement read.
‘Prospect of non-socially distanced live events from June 21 will be especially exciting for millions of music fans across the UK’
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin Chief Executive of UK Music has reacted to Boris’ roadmap.
That is the last question. Boris, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance depart the podium
Joe Murphy from The Standard asks what the science in asking pupils to wear masks. He asks Prof Whitty if people are declining vaccines in care home settings. And he asks PM if working from home extending til next Summer is there a risk of big city centres being hollowed out? Could offices be turned into housing?
Prof Vallance says: “Good ventilation is important in schools. Masks will add to the protection and so will good hygiene. We will measure the effects of schools coming back and if it’s still under control.”
“After that we can see the consequences”, he adds.
Prof Whitty replies: “The vaccine protects against mild, asymptomatic and serious disease. In care homes, people are really keen to get the vaccine.
“My view it’s a professional responsibility for doctors to protect their patients. This isn’t new territory.”
Boris replies: “Care home groups are making sure their staff are vaccinated.”
On city centres he says “there will be changes”.
“There will be opportunities for more accommodation town centres and high streets that which will have been changing for a long time.
“I’m a sceptic, I don’t believe this is a fundamental change for our lives in these big cities. I used to chair TfL for a long time, the better remote communication gets, people see each other on mobile devices there is a paradox. The more they actually want to see each other face-to-face for whatever reason. That I’m sure will come back.
“I think that London and our great cities will be full of buzz, life and excitement again provided people have confidence coming back to the city centres.
“That confidence is going to come from the continuing success of the vaccination programme and people sense that the disease is finally being managed in a way they understand.”
That it’s being controlled and becomes something like the flu that we have to live with. Then you will see life come back to normal again. I’m a sceptic when people say this is going to lead to a massive change in urban life. I’m doubtful I think our great cities will bounce back along with the rest of the economy when we have this roadmap delivered.”
Pippa Crear at the Mirror asks if there is any idea when we may be able to go back to the office or hug and kiss families.
Prof Vallance says it’s possible coming into next winter certain things may be necessary like masks.
Hand hygiene should become part of the norm, he adds.
Boris says he knows how tough it has been for hospitality workers, particularly female, and Rishi Sunak will unveil more support.
No answer on hugging loved ones.
Jason Groves, from Daily Mail asks if they can reassure parents that schools are safe?
Prof Whitty said he was surprised to read reports of things that he didn’t say in the press. He said children need schools for mental health wellbeing and every single child out of school is disadvantaged.
“The risk to children is incredibly low from going to schools.
“The fall in the R rate there is headroom to go ahead. We have a natural firebreak in easter holidays and 5 weeks to see how it’s going. “We will be using more tests and masks and a variety of other things supported by the teaching profession.”
Teachers aren’t a high-risk profession, he adds.
Boris says he can see spring but he won’t be buccaneering with peoples lives and this roadmap strikes a balance.
Sam Coates from Sky asks how do we know this is irreversible? Will you resign if we go back into lockdown?
Boris replies: “Sam, I can’t guarantee this is going to be irreversible but that is the intention. A lot of people will say why don’t you go faster or bring this unlocking earlier if things are going well. But you just have to listen to Chris and the need of an interval, to look at the data.
“This variant is capable of spreading very fast when you unlock. I certainly hope its irreversible, we don’t want another lockdown. We need security and certainty for people and businesses.”
Prof Vallance praises the miracle of vaccines adding we need a gradual release back to normality “based on that bedrock of vaccine effectiveness”.
Robert Peston from ITV asks what rate of infection will cause alarm? And vaccine passports?
Prof Whitty says vaccination breaks the cycle of elderly hospitalisations and deaths.
“At some point at every one of these stages, R is going to creep closer to 1. But vaccinations take a lot of the heavy lifting, and we are expecting a high proportion of people will be vaccinated.”
Boris says vaccine passports will be insisted upon in international travel likened to yellow fever jab.
He said: “There are clearly some quite complex issues, some ethical issues, issues about discrimination and so on, to what extent can governments either compel or indeed forbid use of such certification.
“I think all that needs to be gone into so we are going to have a review of the whole issue before we come to it.”
But he added: “There may well be a role for certification but we just need to get it right.”
Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC asks when will you say to the public it’s over. Asks how many people will die lifting lockdown?
Boris says: “This is not the end this is the roadmap. It’s important to be cautious and recognise people would rather certainty around these dates than haste. That’s the trade-off obviously.”
Prof Whitty says numbers of deaths aren’t helpful. He said every year people die of flu and other respiratory diseases and coronavirus will be added to that long list.
“We have vaccines for flu but there are still deaths. It will be a problem for the next few winters.”
He added vaccinating children is a long way off.
“The uptake from almost every part of society has been incredibly high… well over 90%.”
Sir Patrick says as the UK moves through the vaccine rollout, the public should be doing a “bit” more, not a “lot” more
Rachel from London asks Boris whether he will help vaccinate poorer countries
Boris coughs before answering: “Yes Rachel it’s very important that the UK will support vaccine rollout across the whole world.
“There is no point of people just having vaccinations in one country, it’s a global pandemic we need a global vaccination plan.”
— to www.standard.co.uk