From Monday 29 March, people in England will see the lifting of further restrictions as part of the next step of the government’s four-step roadmap back to a more normal life.
It is hoped that this will be possible due to the vast majority of people following lockdown guidance over the past months and the success of the vaccination programme — with more than 100,000 people* in the borough who are registered to a Walsall GP having been vaccinated so far.
The government insists that we must all continue to remain vigilant; the implementation of this four-step plan will be guided by data and not dates to determine whether it is safe to move on to the next step and for that reason, all dates in the government roadmap are indicative and subject to change.
The first step, taken on 8 March, meant a return of all children and students safely to face-to-face education in schools and colleges. Around 90% of all pupils have been in attendance for face-to-face teaching in the borough and there has been the successful introduction of twice-weekly symptom-free testing for students, parents and teachers to reduce the chance of the virus spreading in schools.
Evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors so from 8 March people have been allowed to leave their home for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble (if eligible) or with one person from outside their household. Care home residents have also been allowed one regular visitor.
From 29 March, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either six people (the Rule of 6) or two households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
While the ‘stay at home’ rule is due to end on 29 March, restrictions will remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes. Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited, other than for a small number of permitted reasons. Holidays abroad will not be allowed (to be reviewed on 12 April), given it will remain important to manage the risk of imported variants and protect the vaccination programme.
Stephen Gunther, Director of Public Health Walsall said, “As the borough moves through each of the phases in the roadmap outlined by national government, we must all remember that COVID-19 remains a part of our lives. We are going to have to keep living our lives differently to keep ourselves and others safe. It is crucial that we carry on with ‘hands, face, space’ guidance and comply with the COVID-secure measures that remain in place: meet outdoors when we can and keep letting fresh air in indoors. Get tested when needed. Get vaccinated when offered and continue to play our part.”
Step 2, which will not be before 12 April, hopes to bring the opening of non-essential retail, indoor leisure facilities (such as gyms) and most outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality. While funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.
Further information and updates will be made available on the Walsall Council website for leisure facilities and for community centres.
Step 3 of the roadmap, which will not be before 17 May, hopes to include further easing of social contact restrictions, lifting restrictions on gathering outdoors and the Rule of 6 or two households will continue to apply indoors and be kept under review.
The government will be carrying out a complete review of social distancing before Step 4 begins which will not be before 21 June.
Notes to editor