Is it lockdown 3 or 4? Whatever it is, it is severe and necessary

by Martin Malone

In my last CLB Employment Solutions Newsletter, I provided the rates per 100,000 for local (Liverpool City Region) areas as at 16 December and highlighted how alarming they were. For clarification of what these mean, they are the number of new cases reported in a particular area in the last seven days (on a rolling basis). Below, I have updated the figures to the latest available as at 30 December 2020 (previous figures in brackets):

  • Warrington – 471.9 (205.2)
  • Cheshire West and Chester – 434.6 (194.4)
  • Cheshire East – 378.8 (161.9)
  • Liverpool – 385.1 (129.1)
  • St Helens – 334.5 (123.5)
  • Knowsley – 454.1 (122.0)
  • Wirral – 483.0 (109.0)
  • Sefton – 412.1 (99.1)

My local area is Oxton on the Wirral where the current rate is 1005.6/100,000 which means that about 1 in 100 have contracted coronavirus in the last seven days. By the way, you can check your own postcode here: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map

To give you an idea of what these figures mean, since the start of the pandemic, 1 in 1000 of the population have died from coronavirus, or coronavirus related illnesses. Surely it’s now time for coronavirus deniers to be called out and we all need to pay proper attention to this particularly deadly of diseases, let alone the now undoubted evidence that the NHS is overwhelmed, as confirmed by the Government’s chief medical officers (category 5 if you remember that from several months ago).

Based on the latest data, 2,713,563 have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 75.431 deaths.

It is therefore no surprise that, this evening, Boris Johnson has announced severe new restrictions to apply across the whole of England, with similar restrictions in the devolved nations.

Only a few days ago, many of us were wishing farewell and good riddance to a challenging 2020. However, the signs are that the peak of the virus is yet to come.

You may have read that the Government is planning on stretching the gap between first and second jabs from 21 days to three months, in order to increase the number of people who are vaccinated. However, that strategy may be short lived because Pfizer and the European Medical Agency have announced this evening that there is no evidence to suggest that second jabs after 21 days will be effective. Consequently, the UK vaccination programme is (as I pointed out in my last post now currently only intended to cover about half the population – over 50s and those with serious underlying conditions) realistically likely to run into late summer or early autumn.

Personally, I’m coming to terms with the reintroduction of shielding. InitialIy, it was a bit of a blow but in fact it won’t make much difference at all. I had adapted to the weekly outing to go shopping. So, instead, I will go out for random drives, just to get out of the house from time to time! Although it doesn’t matter for me (and thank you very much for those who make this so) it’s alarming that there is currently no sign of reintroducing social support or food parcels for those affected.

So, here are the new restrictions and notable points, at least until 15 February:

Elite sports

The Government has taken the view that, unlike last time, there are now effective medical protocols in place. Let’s hope so (not sure)!!

How long?

Unlike previous lockdowns, this one is not time limited – very significant. Subject to review on 15 February (let’s be real, it’s going to be for a lot longer than that).

A note about the latest tiers

They lasted for less than a week.

Those ….(s) who went on holiday abroad

No foreign travel allowed unless for (genuinely) essential reasons (quite right!)

Why were primary schools opened for one day only?

Good question!

What about universities?

Not until mid-February. Well, let’s face it, it’s going to be a lot longer than that.

What about school exams?

They must now be postponed and we must look at a new schools calendar, at least on a temporary basis.

Small mercies

Perhaps surprisingly, restaurants & other premises can continue delivery / takeaway BUT takeaway or click and collect of alcohol will no longer be allowed. Supermarkets / pharmacies / garden centres / builders merchants may stay open.

What does “stay at home” mean?

Well, it’s pretty straightforward. You must not leave home other than:

  • To go to work or volunteer if it’s impossible to do so from home, e.g. a construction or critical worker who can’t work from home.
  • To shop for necessities including food and medicine.
  • To exercise, which can be with up to one other person from outside your household or bubble. The exercise should ideally be limited to once per day. Guidance is that people should try to do this locally.
  • To provide care or help to a vulnerable person. This includes buying food or medicine for a disabled person or someone self-isolating.
  • To attend medical appointments or seek medical care or fleeing the threat of harm or violence.

It’s important to note that most of these restrictions are legally enforceable rather than guidance.

You can’t meet people

You cannot meet people from outside your household or bubble anywhere – indoors or outdoors.

The only exception is that one person can take exercise outside with one person from another household.

But you cannot sit down and have a drink together in the park, as you could previously under Tier 4.

Support bubbles

…are unchanged.

Shielding

…is fully reintroduced.

Furlough

As matters stand the current arrangements are unchanged and will therefore remain as they are (80% of basic salary) until (at least) 30 April.

Closure of non-essential retail

All retail is closed, apart from supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, and builders’ merchants.

Personal care

All personal care services including hairdressers, nail bars and tattoo parlours must shut.

Exercise

All outdoor, as well as indoor, exercise facilities, including outdoor gyms and pools, must shut.

Sport

Outdoor sports venues, including gyms, tennis courts and golf courses must shut. Elite sports can continue.

Weddings and funerals

Funerals – maximum 30 people but stone settings and ash scatterings limited to six. No wakes.

Weddings – limited to 6 people and only in exceptional circumstances, e.g. one of the betrothed is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

Travel

You can’t travel other than for an essential reason which does not include any form of holidays.

You can’t travel to a second or holiday home.

You can only travel outside your local area if you are a key worker for a necessary related purpose.

You can’t travel abroad (you probably couldn’t anyway).

Places of worship

Perhaps surprisingly, still allowed for congregational worship but social distancing should be observed.

Dentists, opticians and healthcare

Open

Driving lessons

Open, subject to Tier 4 guidance.

Zoos and open attractions

Closed. If, like me, you are a big fan of Chester Zoo, please visit their support site here:    https://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/

Home visits

Are still permitted to do essential work but must observe social distancing and clean any surfaces that they touch.

Moving home

Still permitted but should not involve anyone outside your household or support bubble unless absolutely necessary.

 

Please be aware that these restrictions are likely to remain in force for months, so it would be as well to adapt to them.