The successful rollout of the vaccine programme, and the sacrifices we’ve all made as part of lockdown, means that the UK has begun to take the first steps back to normal.
We have now vaccinated more than half the population and are progressing on the roadmap out of lockdown.
But what’s crucial now is that we don’t give up the progress we’ve made to this point – driving down cases, hospitalisations and of course deaths too.
This week, we’ve taken the next step on the road out of lockdown. The ‘stay at home’ order has eased, and households are now able to meet outdoors.
With improved weather, no doubt many of us are looking forward to seeing loved ones again. But to make sure we hold on to our hard-won gains, remember: hands, face, space and fresh air.
That means: washing your hands properly, covering your face with a mask where appropriate, and maintaining social distancing.
And the other thing to remember is that it is much safer to meet outside.
As the pandemic has dragged on, more and more research has been done into how it spreads. Scientists have shown that close contact indoors, both through breathing in droplets from other people or through touching surfaces that droplets have fallen on, are key ways the virus spreads. So wash your hands, cover your face, keep space – and meet outside.
What are we now allowed to do?
Since March 29:
- Groups of six people from different households can meet outside, or more than six if it’s just two different households;
- Organised outdoor sport is again allowed; but
- People should continue to work from home where possible.
Building on our progress
Professor Brooke Rogers OBE is a Professor of Behavioural Science and Security at King’s College London, who studies how people respond in situations like pandemics.
She’s been impressed by the way Brits have abided by the necessary restrictions.
“The levels of adherence to the protective behaviours,” like social distancing and working from home, “have been amazing,” she says.
“I think that there’s a real collective spirit. We are changing our behaviour, not forever, but in order to get us to a point where everyone can be safer.”
Professor Rogers, like everybody, has got used to restricting her behaviour – with travel replaced by repeated walks around the local area.
But she says that the sacrifices are worth it, not just to protect ourselves, but frontline workers.
“Every engagement that we have that isn’t necessary is actually potentially making it riskier for someone else who doesn’t have the choice to work from home,” she says.
With restrictions easing, more people will naturally be interacting. And that’s why it’s important to remember all of our responsibilities to each other – hands, face, space, and meeting up only in fresh air.
We all need to remain as vigilant as possible to control the spread of the virus and protect ourselves and those around us. Together, we will control the virus and stop the spread.
Where’s the best place to meet?
It’s important that people meet in the most low-risk environments – and that means fresh air. So for instance, meeting up in a park and grabbing a coffee, or heading to the local recreation ground to kick a football around.
Many people have become more aware of their physical health during lockdown – so perhaps new walkers and runners could meet up with their friends and do these new, healthy activities together.
London’s a wonderful place to explore, too – our patchwork of communities across the capital mean a walk can be a rewarding way not just to meet up with friends but expand your horizons, too.
Light at the end of the tunnel
City AM Editor Andy Silvester is looking forward to getting outside as the weather improves.
“I love my flat, but even I’m sick of it by now. Being able to get out and about will make a massive difference – both seeing friends, but also working in a different environment. A coffee shop near me is opening out onto the pavement from April 12, and I’m looking forward to taking my laptop down there and working there as it warms up. But in the interim, being able to meet up with friends in the park will be a real boon.
“It’s funny how quickly we’ve all got used to certain new precautions. Last summer friends and I used to compare the quality of bars’ and restaurants’ hand sanitiser – not something I ever thought would make for a subject of conversation until last year. Now we know even more about how the virus spreads, that’s only going to have us all double down on those behaviours we know are useful.
“With the rollout of the vaccine and things opening up, there’s a real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Remember: hands, face, space, and plenty of fresh air. For more information on how to stay safe, visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus