For the second time since our daily lives were changed so much by lockdown on 23rd March, the Prime Minister has released details of a further gradual and cautious easing of restrictions.
The R rate is now below 1, which - among other things - has allowed this easing to take place. But have no doubt, if the R rate starts to pick up, lockdown will again need to be tightened.
From this week, up to six people can meet outside, including in gardens, with strict social distancing being observed at all times. This means that if you are meeting for a cup of tea, or a meal, you need to take your own crockery, cutlery and, if possible, your own food too. Should nature call, you can now use the toilet in the house you’re visiting, as long as you disinfect and wipe down everything you have touched en route.
All these rules, and more are in place for the primary and early years children who have gone back to school this week. School life is going to be very different (and difficult) for some time to come, and I have huge admiration for the school staff who have worked so hard to put measures in place to keep themselves and the children of Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 safe and well.
Those with serious health concerns who have had to ‘shield’ by staying inside and mixing with no one outside their household at all have this week had some good news. These are the people who have been supported so well but the volunteers and community groups set up across Brentwood and Ongar to drop off shopping and medication, or keep in touch by phone. This support will continue, but those who are shielding can now, if they want to, meet one member of another household if they live alone, and go outside for some much needed fresh air.
A couple of weeks ago, I did a session for the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce - and it was clear that many people who are self-employed needed further guarantees of support going forward. I reflected this concerns to the Treasury team and now the Chancellor has extended the Self Employment Support Scheme for three months, with a second and final grant in August worth 70 per cent of average trading profits, capped at £6,570. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support anywhere in the world, will now run until the end of October – providing eight months of support in total.
We’re not through this yet – there is a constant threat of the number of infections rising again – and the key messages remain:
Stay at home as much as possible
Work from home if you can
Limit contact with other people
Keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
Wash your hands regularly
Self-isolate if you or anyone in your household has symptoms
You can find a useful FAQ sheet on the latest guidelines here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do
As ever, please get in touch if I can do anything to help.