Over the last few days, the draft plan of how the government intends to get the country back on its feet and to some sense of normality has been released. It’s not confirmed, and even when Boris Johnson announces the next steps – they will entirely dependent on a continuous falling of the R rate (the rate at which the virus spreads), the death rate, and the subsequent strain on the NHS. However, they are providing hope for those of us who have been asking when will lockdown end?! So we’re here to explain what the suggested COVID lockdown release dates are, and what do they mean?
The suggested dates
The plan that was leaked goes as follows:
The PM will oversee a lockdown review. This is also the deadline set by the government to have vaccinated 15 million people from the 4 highest priority groups. It is also the date from which hotel quarantines apply.
PM Boris Johnson is set to reveal his plan, or ‘road map’, in a live press conference. This will include explanations of what will be eased when, and the necessary criteria for those relaxations to happen.
This is currently the earliest date for the reopening of schools. It is likely that the return will be staggered, with younger primary school children potentially being the first to go back.
There is speculation that outdoor socialising between households may also be possible in March.
Reports and rumours are claiming that pubs and restaurants may be allowed to re-open (with regulations, of course), at some point near Easter in April. Restrictions like the 10 pm curfew and substantial meals may well be scrapped in order to simplify the rules and ease confusion.
This would also allow non-essential shops to open.
The government is hoping that all over-50s will be vaccinated, as well as clinically vulnerable people, by May. Professor Ferguson, a government advisor, has said that the government are hoping that places with low infection rates will be able to return to a Tier 1 style of life.
He then suggested there may well be a 2 tier system across England if infections, hospitalizations and deaths are low enough.
There is speculation that fans could be allowed in stadiums in time for European football championships, which begin in June.
What does this mean for masks, social distancing, and students?
Well, to continue on the trend from the other lockdowns, students have yet to be mentioned in these speculations. Hopefully, on the 22nd of February, a plan will be set in place for when lectures can continue. Until then, it is best to assume that online learning will be in place for the rest of this academic year.
However, if shops and bars are opening in April, this may mean that students currently on furlough will be able to go back to work and have some sense of purpose other than university. Hopefully, students will also be permitted to travel back to their university accommodation, or back home.
In terms of social distancing and masks, it is entirely likely that these will continue to be part of lives for a little while yet. Better safe than sorry, right? A Whitehall source told the Times that social distancing is likely to remain in place until Autumn at least. Similarly, Professor John Edmunds said that the rule of six will also likely be necessary for the rest of 2021.
Are we going to be in Tiers?
The tier system that we have all come to know – and hate – didn’t seem to make much sense. Especially for students who were told they could travel between them at certain times for Christmas, and then trapped wherever they went.
So are these mystical, confusing, and annoying tiers going to be controlling our lives after this lockdown too? Well, it would seem not. Boris Johnson has been telling reporters that ‘the disease is behaving much more nationally’.
This comes after the tiers didn’t manage to stop the spread of the Kent variant of the virus. Which, according to the PM, ‘has taken off across the country’.
Will student life go back to normal soon?
For those still living in their university cities, it would seem that – fingers crossed – we may be able to go for a pint and do our dissertations in coffee shops before this academic year ends. However, for those stuck back home, things are still uncertain.
One thing that seems clear, is that when we are allowed to act like students again… Wetherspoons better be ready.