The progress we have made with vaccinations and bringing down infections since the last lockdown is something to be proud of. The UK is well ahead of most other countries in the world and as a result of this we have been able to cautiously move through three different steps in our roadmap and to gradually start removing restrictions.
Nobody enjoys restrictions being put on their day-to-day lives and whilst the levels of financial support have been unprecedented, many businesses have still struggled under very difficult circumstances during this pandemic. We have also had long periods where we have been unable to see our loved ones and the people who are important to us.
I am as disappointed as anybody that we have not been able to move to Step 4 of our roadmap on June 21st, although like most I understand the reasons behind this. The target dates given for the different steps were subject to us meeting four different tests, specifically: Test 1 – successful deployment of vaccines; Test 2 – evidence of vaccines reducing hospitalisations and deaths; Test 3 – infection rates not causing a surge in hospitalisations and putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and finally Test 4 – that any risk assessment isn’t changed by new Covid Variants of Concern.
The Delta variant has brought Test 4 into question and an increase in infections has also meant Test 3 becoming a risk. Again, this is very frustrating, but we have to be sensible and make sure that any lifting of restrictions is permanent. We do not go back to the situation we were in previously where they were lifted, only to see another lockdown further down the line. We have already lifted many restrictions and the situation in the UK is very different from other countries who are still experiencing far tougher rules, which more resemble a traditional lockdown.
There are some exceptions to the original roadmap and weddings and wakes will be allowed to have more than the 30 people specified previously. This is vital and whilst it is not a perfect situation, it will mean many people are able to proceed with their plans and some of our venues will at least have some relief. The furlough scheme and support for businesses and the self-employed are still available and this will hopefully help cushion the blow of the extra 4 weeks delay, although this delay could be shorter if the data suggests things are improving sufficiently.
The extra time will also allow us to get another 10 million jabs into people’s arms, which will make a big difference. Whilst the vaccination programme has been a huge success, there are still many people in their 40s and 50s still waiting for their second jabs and this will allow us to make sure this is done.
Once again, we are all frustrated with the limits which have been put on our daily lives during this pandemic, but we want to make sure that we can return to normality and it can then stay that way. Thank you for your patience and helping us to combat this virus.