BORIS: IT’S A PERILOUS TIME... USE YOUR COMMON SENSE
Social ‘bubbles’ and covering your face part of blueprint to get Britain moving
BORIS Johnson last night urged Britons to use “common sense” to help free the country from the coronavirus lockdown.
The Prime Minister unveiled a
50-page plan for getting employees back to work, children back at school and freedoms restored.
Key measures in his blueprint include a recommendation for people to wear face masks in enclosed public spaces, such as shops, and on trains and buses where social distancing is difficult.
There are also hopes of a return of televised sport and cultural events to “boost national morale”.
It was also suggested people from different households could soon be able to meet in social “bubbles”.
And dismissing criticism from opposition politicians of the Government’s changing message, Mr Johnson insisted he was putting his trust in “good, solid British common sense”.
Presenting his three-stage plan for easing the lockdown to MPs, the PM said: “We have begun our descent from the peak of the pandemic but our journey has reached the most perilous moment.We will be driven not by hope or economic revival as an end in itself, but by data and science and public health.
“And so the Government is submitting to the House today a plan which is conditional and dependent as always on the common sense and observance of the British people, and on continual re-assessment of the data.”
In a live television questions session with members of the public last night, the PM insisted the exit from lockdown will be gradual.
He said: “We’re taking baby steps.We think that’s the right way to do it.”
He said he was not expecting a surge of people back at work this week but urged employees to begin speaking to their employers about a return to the workplace.
He added: “If you can’t work from home, you should now think about going to work, providing your workplace is Covid-secure and providing you can travel safely.”
Mr Johnson confirmed the rule change from tomorrow for people to meet another individual does allow them to catch up with relatives.
He said: “There is new scope to see one other member of your family somewhere outdoors. It may not sound like much but I hope you understand the constraints we are all under. To keep this disease at bay, we have to advance very gradually.” Mr Johnson confirmed that the daily coronavirus death toll rose by 210 yesterday to a UK total of 32,065, with 223,060 cases.
The PM admitted that the Government faced a “supremely difficult” challenge in easing restrictions without risking a fresh surge in infections.
He said: “Our challenge now is to find a way forward that preserves our hard won gains, while easing the burden of the lockdown.
“There could be no greater mistake than to jeopardise everything we have striven to achieve by proceeding too far and too fast.”
Mr Johnson told MPs people will be allowed to leave their homes for unlimited exercise or recreation from tomorrow, while those who cannot work from home will be encouraged to return to work in the first part of his three-stage plan.
They will be able to meet friends individually to socialise or play sports, including tennis or golf.
From next month, children will be able to return to classrooms in a phased reopening of primary schools in the second stage of his plan.
And, in the third stage, expected from July, many more businesses, including cafes and restaurants, will be allowed to reopen.
He said: “With more activity outside our homes, we would now advise people to wear a cloth face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible, and you are more likely to come in contact with people you do not normally meet.
“The reason is face coverings can help to protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease, particularly if you have coronavirus-like symptoms.
“What we really want people to do in this country is to look at our social distancing measures and apply them with common sense.
“The two-metre rule, addressing how you interact with people, these are ways in which we can push down this virus.
“It’s the common sense of the
British people that has been so crucial in getting the R [virus reproduction rate] down.
“Everybody understood roughly what to do in the first phase and it’s by applying common sense that I think we’ll be successful in this second phase as well.”
Mr Johnson also said the second stage could include allowing cultural and sporting events, taking place behind closed doors, to be broadcast for a much-needed boost to national morale.
Adding that “nothing can substitute for human contact”, the PM said he has asked Government medical advisers to investigate “when and how we could safely allow people to expand their household group to include one other household, on a strictly reciprocal basis”.
One move under review is a system of so-called social “bubbles” of people getting together that had been tested in New Zealand. Mr Johnson told MPs Britons had “faced a grave threat with common sense, compassion and unflinching resolve”.
He said: “We have together observed the toughest restrictions on our freedoms in memory, changing our way of life on a scale unimaginable only months ago.”
His document, entitled Our Plan To Rebuild, said good progress had been made in reducing the coronavirus infection rate but warned that not all the Government’s five tests for lifting the lockdown had been met.
Warning that many restrictions will continue for the foreseeable future, the document said: “This is not a short-term crisis. It is likely that Covid-19 will circulate in the human population long term, possibly causing periodic epidemics.
“In the near future, large epidemic waves cannot be excluded without continuing some measures.”
In his foreword to the document, the PM admitted the death toll of more than 30,000 people in the UK had been “a heavy price”.
Mr Johnson also cautioned that his plan did not bring “a quick return to normality”.
He said a vaccine or treatment to combat coronavirus symptoms is the “only feasible long-term solution”.
He added: “While we hope for a breakthrough, hope is not a plan.
“A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away.
“So this plan seeks to return life to as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and fairly as possible, in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.”
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said around 130,000 people in the UK are currently estimated to be infected with coronavirus. He added: “That should be coming down.”