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Lifting the coronavirus lockdown: the route to reopening shops, schools and social bubbles

A briefing yesterday (28/4) lowered the benchmark to say the aim was to avoid a second wave that “overwhelms the NHS”. The four other tests have either been met or are close to being met.

So which restrictions are likely to be eased and what are the new protections and rules that might help with a return to something approaching normal life?

Getting back to work
Even when the government announced the lockdown measures last month it was keen to emphasise that people could go to work if they could not do that work from home.

Desk-based” businesses will be told to enforce the two-metre rule in desk spacing and told to keep communal spaces closed unless people can socially distance. They must also ensure that there is a reliable supply of hand-washing facilities and sanitising gel.

Shops and takeaways
Germany became the first country to reopen some shops with a retail space of 800sq m or less last week. The first step in this country is also likely to be the reopening of smaller shops, which are the least financially resilient. Garden centres could also be included. Shopping centres are likely to remain shut longer.

Restaurants and pubs
The hospitality industry is likely to remain the hardest-hit sector of the economy, with no firm end date in sight to their lockdown.

Hairdressers, gyms and entertainment
The closure of services that most people take for granted such as getting your hair cut or going to the gym or the cinema has been, for many, one of the more aggravating aspects of the lockdown. Yet they are also some of the most risky in terms of increasing transmission and there is little consensus among European countries about what to do.

Norway and Switzerland, for example, allowed hairdressers to reopen this week following Denmark’s lead. However The Sun recently claimed that hairdressers could remain closed for six months — and while that may be excessive they are unlikely to be among the first businesses to open.

Transport

Transport for London, for example, has calculated that Tube trains would have to run at 15 per cent of their normal capacity to comply with the rules.

The public will be advised or even ordered to wear facemasks when social distancing is not possible. This has long been a demand of Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London.

Sporting events
Some sporting events — such as Premier League football matches — are likely to resume sooner rather than later. Oliver Dowden, the culture and sport secretary, said this week that he had been in contact with clubs about restarting the Premier League “as soon as possible”

Social life
Plans are being developed to expand the definition of a household into larger “bubbles” that would allow families to meet.

Flights
Oddly, as restrictions are eased in this country so restrictions are likely to increase on travel. Ministers are preparing to order all inbound travellers to Britain to self-quarantine for 14 days on their return. However games will he played behind closed doors.

(Source: The Times 29/4)