As I write this article, the UK’s COVID-19 alert level has reduced from four to three. This is a big moment for the country and shows that with the hard work of the British people, the government’s plan has been working. Under level three, the virus is considered to be in ‘general circulation’ and there can be a gradual relaxation of restrictions.
As the World Health Organisation has said, we have made huge progress in reducing the level of the virus. But we still need to be vigilant about the risk of cases taking off again. The progress we have made allows us to take further steps to open up the economy and start to return towards normal life. From the 4 July hospitality, including pubs and restaurants, and tourist and cultural attractions will be able to start to open.
It is important to note though that the existing rules around high levels of hygiene and social distancing will have to continue to be observed. We must be mindful that if we do not follow these rules, the virus could start to take off again – that is why we have doubled the level of testing compared to most other European countries, invested in 27,000 test and tracers, and tens of thousands of people are self-isolating as a result of having tested positive or being traced as being in contact of someone who tested positive. All this should help ensure that when we have localised flare ups of the disease we can keep it under control.
I know that these are difficult decisions and from my conversations with people locally I know people have strong views. Please be assured I am listening carefully and that the government is proceeding in a cautious, balanced way, to ensure we both protect people’s jobs and livelihoods, with all the health benefits that brings, and simultaneously ensure we continue to keep this disease under control.
The steps we have taken so far have only been possible because of the common sense of people across the UK, including locally, who have followed the rules. If we continue to do this, I am optimistic we can continue to make progress in both keeping the disease under control and starting to return to normal life.
[This article was written on Tuesday 23 June 2020]