The key dates for businesses and the proposed steps for the reopening of the economy can be found here. Below is a summary of the key points included in the Government's 60 page COVID-19 response document which was published on 22nd February. Long-term COVID-19 While for many people COVID-19 is a mild illness, for some, regardless of age, the effects can linger into the long-term. The NHS and partner organisations are already implementing initiatives to support people with prolonged symptoms following COVID-19 infection. In addition, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have announced funding for a number of ambitious studies that will help the Government learn more about the long-term effects of the virus, including among people who have not been hospitalised. Vaccines The Government aims for everyone aged 50 and over and people with underlying health conditions to have been offered a first dose of the vaccine by 15 April, and a second dose by mid-July. Adults under 50 will receive their vaccinations from mid-April with the aim of offering everybody aged 18 and over a first dose of the vaccine by 31 July. Vaccines will not be given to 100% of the population. This is because the vaccine is currently not authorised for some groups, such as children, and some people will not take up the offer of a vaccine. Vaccines will not be 100% effective against symptomatic infection in those vaccinated, nor will they be 100% effective against severe disease and death. For these reasons, a significant proportion of the population could still be infected, either because they have not been vaccinated or because the vaccine is not effective for them. This could mean that some measures to limit transmission are still needed after all adults have been offered a vaccine. These could include guidance such as “hands, face, space”, maintaining the Test, Trace and Isolate system and controls at the border. The extent to which such measures will be required after all adults have been vaccinated is still unknown.
In Step 1 From 8 March: As before, people can now leave home for work if they cannot work from home. In Step 2 No earlier than 12 April: People should continue to work from home where they can. In Step 3 No earlier than 17 May: In all sectors COVID-Secure guidance will still remain in place. The Government will continue to advise the public to work from home where they can. Ahead of step 4 (21 June): The Government will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission. The results of the review will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on 1m+, face masks and other measures may be lifted. The review will also inform guidance on working from home - people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete. In Step 4 No earlier than 21 June: With appropriate mitigations in place remove all legal limits on social contact, publishing accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission and protect ourselves and loved ones. Behaviours: Even as restrictions are lifted, it is essential that everyone carries on with the good habits that reduce transmission: remembering ‘hands, face, space’ and letting fresh air in, getting a test on the first sign of symptoms and self-isolating if it is positive. It is safer to meet outdoors and to avoid large gatherings. Businesses must also continue to take necessary precautions as restrictions ease. The overwhelming majority of the businesses that remained open during the pandemic did so in a COVID-Secure way. The Government will update COVID-19 Secure guidance to provide further advice on how businesses can improve fresh air flow in indoor workplaces and introduce regular testing to reduce risk. Local authorities will also continue to offer advice. As England moves through the roadmap steps, the Government will continue to monitor existing enforcement powers and modify them if necessary. The police and local authorities are able to take action against people who break the law and apply sanctions, for those businesses that are not operating safely. Test, trace and isolate: The Test, Trace and Isolate system will help to support the easing of social and economic restrictions and keep people safe. NHS Test and Trace, working in partnership with PHE, local authorities, businesses, schools, universities and others, now has capacity for approximately 800,000 PCR tests per day across the UK. As the virus becomes less prevalent, the Test, Trace and Isolate system will become ever more important in identifying local outbreaks rapidly, allowing the Government to take swift action to manage them and respond to new Variants of Concern. The Government’s offer of free test kits to workplaces for staff who cannot work at home will be extended to until the end of June. Organisations, including those yet to open, will need to register interest before 31 March. The Government will keep this under review as vaccine deployment continues and will investigate how testing could be used to support the recovery. In time, it is possible that testing becomes a viable alternative to self-isolation for contacts of infected people. The emergence of new variants has meant this is not yet feasible, but the testing programme is being primed to deliver this when the time is right.
The Government will also expand support for those self-isolating. While self-isolation is critically important to halting the spread of the disease, it is never easy for those affected. The Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme will continue into the summer, and will be expanded to cover parents who are unable to work because they are caring for a child who is self-isolating, and the funding made available for local authorities as part of this to make discretionary support payments will be increased to £20 million per month. There will be more funding too to help local authorities ensure people self-isolating have access to practical support, such as food deliveries or help with their caring responsibilities, and support for wellbeing. In addition, the Medicines Delivery Service that has been established to help clinically extremely vulnerable people will be extended to provide essential deliveries for self- isolators without access to alternatives.