Step 3 on the government’s ‘roadmap’ back to freedom comes into effect today and Public Health Officials are issuing advice on how to mix safely indoors and outside.
Today, residents of Northamptonshire and across England will take Step 3 on the four-step ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, with further freedoms legally allowed.
You can now meet people indoors, but the ‘Rule of 6’ or 2 households will still apply. If you are meeting friends and family, you can make a personal choice on whether to keep your distance from them, but you should still be cautious. You can also meet whoever you like outdoors, at distance, but gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal.
Indoor hospitality is reopening - and as in Step 2, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew. Customers will, however, have to order, eat and drink while seated.
Other indoor locations which can open today are indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas; the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes.
The government will now also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number), and in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number). In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).
In all sectors, COVID-secure guidance will remain in place and will be subject to inspection by Environmental Health Officers. Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. Capacity will depend on the size of the venue and compliance with social distancing rules. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings.
Nightclubs will remain closed until the nation takes the final step on the ‘roadmap’ Step 4, not before 21 June.
Public Health officials are issuing the advice below on how to mix safely, given the official lifting of restrictions. They are also urging residents to take a lateral flow test twice weekly and get vaccinated when the call comes.
Lucy Wightman Joint Director of Public Health - North and West Northamptonshire Councils said: “The further relaxing of measures today is welcome news and a huge relief for the residents of Northamptonshire and all across the nation. We have all worked so very hard to get here and abiding by the lockdown measures wasn’t easy.
“As we all know by now, unfortunately we won’t be able to get rid of COVID-19 altogether and the risk to exposure is something we will all have to factor into our lives. Our county’s case rates are showing a rising trend and the Indian variant is circulating in Northamptonshire, so it is vital that we exercise the highest degree of caution and common sense.
”If you are meeting friends and family you can now make a personal choice on whether to keep your distance from them, but you should still be vigilant. We must all remember that close contact, including hugging, increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.
“There is no such thing as a fully safe period of close contact but if you do meet inside, I would advise the following:
• Make sure the space is well ventilated.
• Open windows and doors or take other action to let in plenty of fresh air. Bringing fresh air into a room and removing older stale air that may contain virus particles reduces the chance of spreading COVID-19. The more fresh air that is brought inside, the quicker any airborne virus will be removed from the room.
• Minimise how many people you’re in close contact with and for how long. The more people you are in close contact with - particularly if they are from different households - the higher the chances of you catching or passing on COVID-19.
• Longer periods of close contact increase the risk of transmission and remember that even brief contact can spread COVID-19.
• Wash hands and clean surfaces regularly to remove virus particles.
“I would also urge you to accept the vaccine when you are offered it and encourage others to as well. Vaccines reduce the chance of passing on the virus and of you developing serious illness yourself. Consider whether you and your loved ones are vaccinated and whether there has been time for the vaccine to take effect before being in close contact – and that a residual risk will always remain. Remember that some people are more vulnerable than others to being seriously ill from COVID-19.
“We have come so far, and we just have one more step to climb. We will only be allowed to do so if fewer people continue to catch COVID-19.”
In order to remind the residents of Northamptonshire to stay as safe as possible outdoors the Public Health team is continuing to publicise their COVID-19 awareness campaign called, “Take care in the open air”.
The campaign aims to provide evidence based, scientific guidance to residents, with the aim of helping individuals to exercise best practice whilst meeting others outside. When people are outside and physically distanced from each other, the particles containing the virus that causes COVID-19 are blown away which makes it less likely that they will be breathed in by another person.
As outlined in the Government’s roadmap to recovery, it is important that social distancing measures remain in place outdoors until the data shows that this can change. Some of the key messages are:
• Maintain two metre social distancing outdoors and avoid face to face close contact especially where shouting or laughing (aerosol droplets are larger and travel further when laughing or shouting)
• COVID-19 can be caught from surfaces such as play equipment, railings, gates and buttons
• Carry hand sanitiser with you when out and about and use contactless payments where possible. Take your face covering with you in case you find you need it
• Please dispose of any old face coverings in a bin. Discarded face masks pose a risk of transmission and add to unwanted litter so please discard of them safely in a bin
• Finally, when meeting in private gardens in particular, avoid sharing items, keep two metres from others, even family who you do not live with, and stay alert if you are consuming alcohol, and keep following the guidance.
These messages continue to appear across social media, bus stops, digital vans and in open spaces over coming weeks. They are there to help residents to keep safe and remain within the guidelines, which will help us progress towards step four on the roadmap, if the data supports on June 21st, 2021.
Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of the previous step. This assessment will be based on four tests:
a. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
b. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
c. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
d. Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.