By: Escher Walcott
After finally getting used to my routine indoors, the UK is now easing up on lockdown…well, not completely…and not the whole of the UK either – confused? Me too. On May 10th, Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a three-phase plan to bring England out of lockdown over the next coming weeks – and it’s filled with mixed messages.
The fact that coronavirus cases are still considerably high in this country (although past peak numbers) and Scotland, Ireland, and Wales aren’t adhering to these new rules leaves me feeling unsettled. Since I discussed lockdown in London a few weeks back, the UK has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe. Frankly, I’m not surprised, after the British government’s delayed approach in handling lockdown procedures at the beginning of the pandemic.
Here’s a breakdown of England’s abrupt new moves out of lockdown:
Back to Work
From May 13th, those who cannot work from home should go back to work, however travelling by public transport must be avoided where possible with cycling and driving preferred. Most people commute to work and in London, it’s nearly impossible to reach parts of the city without hopping onto the underground. Not everyone has a car or a bike also, and cycling isn’t practical when you have equipment to carry into the workplace.
I am deeply concerned for service workers including cleaners and bus drivers – most of whom in this country are black people, made vulnerable to infection now they’re being told to get back to work. It has been reported that black people in the UK are four times more likely to succumb to coronavirus if exposed and so no doubt, will be affected most by these poorly constructed work measures.
Those living in England can now leave the house as many times as desired in keeping with social distancing rules. Interaction with up to one person outside of the household is also allowed which, although I’m slightly relieved at the thought of this, quickly worries me as more mingling could put the country at risk of a second spike of coronavirus cases.
Masks aren’t mandatory although its been advised that they be worn on public transport and in shops which again, makes the degree of necessity unclear. Those who are vulnerable must remain at home, avoiding interaction with other households until further notice.
If, following the first phase, coronavirus cases continue to decline in England, the second phase will be brought into affect. This will include schools reopening from June 1st with children in Reception (aged 4-5), Year 1 (aged 5-6) and Year 6 (aged 10-11) allowed back, along with Year 10 (aged 14-15) and Year 12 (aged 16-17) as they have vital exams to prep for.
I understand the urge for older students to get back into exam mode and there’s certainly a capability in these students to follow social distancing rules, however the same can’t be said for the younger years. I understand that parents need to get back to work, however I feel the safer option for children would be to reopen schools at the start of Autumn term in the hope that social distancing measures can be relaxed by then.
Non-essential shops reopening
This would include restaurants, pubs and cafes, with new social distancing codes established. Beauty services, cinemas and other non-essential shops will be delayed for reopening until July when the country moves into its third phase out of lockdown, if coronavirus figures aren’t worst affected by the new rules.
“I am deeply concerned for service workers including cleaners and bus drivers – most of whom in this country are black people, made vulnerable to infection now they’re being told to get back to work.”
Personally, I think enforcing this plan right now is risky. Too many victims have succumbed to coronavirus in the UK as a result of lacklustre lockdown measures and now the government wants to shake free responsibility of the public’s welfare prematurely. Clearly, the need to rebuild the economy back up rather then the nation’s health is a larger concern for the administration, leaving the rest of us treading water.