He said that it was too soon to end the lock down – it would be July at the earliest before pubs and restaurants can begin to re-open – but it was time to restore some basic liberties that Britons have surrendered in recent weeks. We can now sunbathe in parks, drive to the countryside and play sports – but only with members of our own household.
It is also time to get more cogs of the economy turning once again. Construction and manufacturing were specifically cited as industries that must be ‘actively encouraged’ to go back to work.
His words, however, apply only to England. The devolved regional governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are maintaining their current lockdown protocols.
The prime minister said: “This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures. And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week.”
He said: “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.”
He recognised that public transport remains a stumbling block to public safety, though has no real solution to this yet. Try and avoid trains and buses if you can, remains the mantra..
“We want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited. So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home,” he said.
Although the UK has passed its initial peak in Covid-19 fatalities, there is no certainty than it will not rise again if lockdown measures are eased too soon. “We have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous,” the prime minister said.