The Prime Minister has set out the first sketch of a road map for reopening society. Further guidance will be published this afternoon.
We must stay alert. We must continue to control the virus and save lives.
It is thanks to the sacrifice and resilience of the British people that we have succeeded in slowing the spread of coronavirus. The death rate and hospital admissions are coming down, and we have protected the NHS and saved many thousands of lives.
We must not relent now – or else there is a very real risk of a second peak of the disease that could overwhelm the NHS and throw away all of our achievements to date.
The Prime Minister has consulted across the political spectrum, across all four nations of the UK. And though different parts of the country are experiencing the pandemic at different rates, and it is right to be flexible in our response, there is a strong resolve to defeat this together.
We have been clear from the beginning that our five tests must be met. And since our priority is to protect the public and save lives, we cannot move forward unless we satisfy the five tests.
To chart our progress and to avoid going back to square one, we are establishing a new Covid Alert System. That Covid Alert Level will be determined primarily by R and the number of coronavirus cases. It will tell us how tough we have to be in our social distancing measures. There will be five alert levels – the lower the level, the fewer the measures.
This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead, we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.
- We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must. We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.
- And from this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.
- You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.
- At the earliest, by June 1 – after half term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
- Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays.
- At the earliest by July - subject to these conditions and further scientific advice; if and only if the numbers support it we will hope to re-open at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places, if they are safe and enforce social distancing.
Though the UK will be changed by this experience, we can be stronger and better than ever before. More resilient, more innovative, more economically dynamic, but also more generous and more sharing.
But for now we must stay alert, control the virus and save lives.