Your guide to today's lockdown changes - and what they mean for parents, pupils, workers, firms, and sportspeople
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s blueprint for Lancashire’s exit from the coronavirus lockdown caused confusion when he outlined it in vague terms late on Sunday.
Over the last couple of days, the Government’s 50-page document has been pored over and questioned, with more details emerging – as well as more questions.
Here’s what is known about the immediate future of our county, and England, and what it means for workers, employers, parents, teachers, children, and sportspeople.
Young children could start returning to nurseries from June 1, with the Government aiming for all primary school pupils to go back for a month before summer.
The Government expects preschool children to be able to return to early years settings, and for reception, year one, and year six pupils to be back in school in “smaller sizes” from the start of next month.
Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to being some “face-to-face contact” with year 10 and 12 students who have key exams next year.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said there are a number of “difficulties” with the Government’s guidance.
He told MPs yesterday that the union was not consulted, and said: “If social distancing is as we understand it now – the two metre rule to be applied in schools – there are very many schools that are saying it is simply impossible to achieve.”
The Department for Education issued guidelines which said primary school class sizes should be limited to 15 pupils and outdoor areas should be used.
The advice called for schools to stagger lunch and break times, as well as drop-off and pick-up times, to reduce the number of pupils moving around.
Schools should also consider introducing one-way circulation, or placing a divider down the middle of the corridor.
A poll from the National Education Union suggested a third of parents do not immediately plan to send their children back to school once lockdown measures are relaxed. And the
Government confirmed parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time, nor will schools or colleges be held to account for attendance levels.
Children with underlying health conditions – or living with somebody who is “extremely clinically vulnerable” should only go to school if “stringent social distancing” can be adhered to, and their child is able to understand and follow the instructions.
They are not compulsory, but people should wear face coverings on public transport and in shops, and stand side-to-side with others when outside to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, the Government said.
It also suggested washing clothes regularly and keeping rooms well ventilated.
The advice read: “The evidence suggests wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.
“If you have symptoms of Covid-19 – a cough and/or high temperature – you and your family should isolate at home. Wearing a face covering does not change this.”
It said the recommended face coverings are not the same as the surgical masks used by health care staff and other workers.
“Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of two or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary school age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions,” the guidance said.
“It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.”
Those unable to work from home have been urged to avoid public transport when travelling in – instead walking or cycling wherever possible.
For those unable to do so, employers are urged to stagger working times to avoid busy periods on trains, buses, and other modes of transport.
Public transport users should face away from each other if they can’t keep a two-metre gap, the Department for Transport said as it acknowledged “there may be situations where you can’t keep a suitable distance from people”, such as on busier services or at peak times.
Transport operators were urged to rearrange, remove, or limit seating, while single users of black cabs and minicabs should sit in the back left-hand seat of cars, the advice said.
Passengers were also told to wash or sanitise their hands after completing their journeys. They should use contactless payment and avoid rush-hour if possible.
People who can work only in the workplace are being advised to return to their jobs and “Covid-secure” safety guidelines were being drawn up to enable this.
The “back to work” group includes those in construction and manufacturing, in labs and research facilities, tradesmen, cleaners, and others.
Those who do have to go into work should avoid being in close confines with colleagues, the Government said. It has encouraged employers to maintain social distancing and efforts to increase hygiene such as regular cleaning of surfaces.
The Health and Safety Executive said firms unable to bring in adequate measures to protect staff should stay shut.
The scheme will be extended until the end of October, and will remain changed until the end of July – and then continue with employers expected to start footing some of the multi-billion pound bill.
From August, employers will be able to start bringing furloughed employees back part-time, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday.
Small weddings could be allowed to take place from next month as the Government looks at how to allow people to gather in larger groups.
Under step two of the Government’s blueprint – to be started no earlier than June 1 – officials are looking at “how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings”.
But it says places of worship could be closed until July 4 at the earliest, dependent on whether they can adequately enforce social distancing measures.
People are now allowed to spend more time outdoors to enjoy sunbathing, picnics and fresh air, and exercise as much as they like.
The rules have also relaxed the “stay local” message so people can drive to outdoor open spaces “irrespective of distance”, as long as they respect social distancing guidance.
But in the wake of the new situation – which only applies to England – national parks are warning people to respect local communities, keep their distance from others, and avoid hotspots or busy areas.
Visitors were warned that many facilities such as car parks, visitor centres, and public toilets, as well as cafes and pubs, are not yet open.
The Lake District National Park urged people not to return yet in order to help communities in Cumbria, which has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the UK.
Other national parks also urged would-be visitors to respect people and businesses in the parks as well as the nature that has been thriving, ensure they practise social distancing, plan ahead, and avoid busy areas.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the decision to lift the ban on driving to beauty spots for exercise should not risk increasing the spread of the virus in such areas.
Asked if there is a limit on how far people can drive, he said yesterday: “No, there isn’t, but this isn’t for people to move house or to go on holiday or to be able to stay.”
Trips to garden centres are also allowed, though visiting holiday and second homes remains banned.
Outdoor facilities like tennis and basketball courts and golf courses can be made use of, but outdoor gyms, playgrounds and public pools remain off limits.
VISITING FRIENDS AND FAMILY
People are allowed to meet one other person from outside their household, though that must take place outdoors.
The Government is considering if it can safely allow an expanded definition of “household” to allow people to connect with close family members and partners. Mr Hancock said the household ‘bubble’ idea will help relieve the “anguish” of people wanting to see their grandparents or lovers.
“It will help if we can do it in a way that doesn’t impact on R [the number of people each Covid-19 patient infect on average],” he said.
People can also go out to care for a vulnerable person, or to carry out voluntary or charitable services.
BREAKING THE RULES
Lockdown fines will rise to £100 as the Government warned it was considering tougher enforcement measures for anyone caught flouting the rules.
People police believe are breaching restrictions on movement will have their first fine lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days, but fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
Lancashire’s crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw said the challenge for police officers was made greater by the change in lockdown rules.
He called on people to “take collective responsibility” and “make the right decisions” but said: “Lancashire will continue to police by consent and take a common sense approach using the four E approach: to engage, explain, encourage and enforce as a last resort.”
SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS
More shuttered stores on the high street are set to reopen from June 1, including those currently considered “nonessential”, such as fashion or homeware retailers.
But other businesses, such as pubs, hairdressers and cinemas will have to wait until July before they can reopen.
Stores, which are set to be reopened in phases, must meet new Covid-19 safety and security guidelines.
Until now, only essential stores like supermarkets, pharmacies and cycle stores, have been allowed to remain open during the coronavirus lockdown.
There will be no professional sports, even behind closed doors, in England until at least June 1, but after that some cultural and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors for broadcasting.