It’s Roadmap Day

Peter Schrank’s cartoon in the Sunday Times on February 21st, 2021

Today is the big day. First in the House of Commons then later in a Downing Street Press Conference, Boris is expected to unveil the long-awaited roadmap, which will detail the route out of lockdown. The Daily Mail has something of a preview.

The first steps to freedom from lockdown will prioritise reopening schools and reuniting families, Boris Johnson said last night.

In two weeks, on March 8th, you will be able to meet one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic.

On the same date, all pupils will return to the classroom as part of the first of four steps towards getting the country back on its feet.

Unveiling his long-awaited roadmap today, the Prime Minister will announce that on March 29th, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed – enabling families and friend groups to meet properly for the first time in months.

That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.

But in a blow to many families, they will not be allowed to take holidays over the Easter weekend. And shops, hairdressers and pubs are all likely to remain closed until mid-April at the earliest.

Still a fair amount of time left to spend watching Netflix then. Why so slow? Katy Balls has some analysis in the Spectator. It seems that being criticised in the media and elsewhere for coming out of the spring and autumn lockdown too quickly – and for being prematurely optimistic that each lockdown would be the last – has made Boris ultra-cautious. He wants to avoid any more U-turns if he possibly can.

When Boris Johnson stands at the despatch box on Monday afternoon to unveil his roadmap for ending the lockdown, those hoping for a big bang moment in ending restrictions will be left disappointed. Instead, the Prime Minister will announce a very gradual easing of the lockdown stretching to the summer – with Johnson reserving the right to make it even slower should the data go the wrong way. Having been stung by previous promises to avoid further lockdowns, the roadmap will be more cautious than members of the Conservative party’s Covid Recovery Group would like…

When it comes to the timescale, should deaths and hospitalisations plummet the Prime Minister is still keen to have a period of a few weeks between each easing to see the effect it has on the data. As a result, even if things appear to be going better than expected, it could be a long wait for a full reopening. There will be four tests for easing the lockdown at each stage: 1. Vaccine rollout going as planned 2. The vaccine is driving down deaths and hospitalisations in the way expected 3. The infection rate is one that doesn’t risk the NHS being overwhelmed 4. New variants do not change the risk assessment.

So one bit of good news: the number of infections doesn’t appear to be one of the tests, provided there’s no risk of the NHS being overwhelmed. Does this mean the Zero Covid fanatics have been shown the door? We can but hope.

Worth reading Katy’s piece in full.

The Telegraph has interviewed some of the people most badly affected by the lockdown and they are in no doubt that it must end ASAP.

Lifting lockdown can’t come soon enough for many across the country. While the tragic cost of the pandemic in terms of lives lost has frequently been foregrounded, the cost of the ongoing restrictions has been harder to quantify and often overlooked.

Business owners, mental health and education experts, families, sport coaches and care home managers are now pleading with the Prime Minister to recognise this toll and allow safe reopening as soon as possible.

Michael Caines, chef/patron of Lympstone Manor, Devon

I don’t think it’s extreme, nor is it scaremongering, to say that the hospitality industry is teetering on the edge.

My flagship is Lympstone Manor, a contemporary hotel within an historic country manor house in East Devon, with a vineyard and Michelin-starred restaurant. I’m all set to open another, in Exmouth, which is ready to go. I’m just waiting for the nod from the Government. So much depends on what measures the Prime Minister unveils in his roadmap on Monday…

Sarah Lloyd, 40, mother-of-two from in Farnborough, Hampshire

I have hit absolute burnout. My husband works full-time from home and I run my own business, Indigo Soul PR, while we simultaneously try to homeschool our two daughters, aged seven and five.

It has affected all four of us badly. My two girls are just so pent up and angry all the time, and at one point were even refusing to go out for a walk because they were so upset. They usually get on so well, but at the moment it’s constant tantrums and fights because they just feel so pent up. I really worry about the long-term impact on their mental health…

Sarah Gillow, owner, Galio jewellers, George Street, St Albans

Sarah Gillow opened her high street jeweller in the midst of a recession in 1992. Neither that nor the ups and downs of the intervening years could have prepared her for the brutality of lockdowns, however.

“It’s hit us really hard,” she said, having had to cut staff and watch her sales slide over the latest year…

Business was good between June and November, but lockdown number three came as a major blow. “I never dreamt in a million years that the Government was going to shut us down just before Christmas,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

Come on Boris. The vaccine roll out is going better than anyone could have expected. The weather is good. Foot to the floor!

Stop Press: The Telegraph has a detailed overview of when the different stages of the roadmap are likely to occur.

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