Prime minster Boris Johnson has unveiled his conditional plan for bringing the UK out of Covid-19 lockdown in an address to the nation, 10 May.
While the plan noted that the rate of infection – the ‘R’ – is less than one, it could be as high as 0.9, meaning that it is still too early for a sizeable rollback of lockdown restrictions.
No specific timeline was confirmed as far as the events industry is concerned, but the prime minister did hint that parts of the hospitality industry, of which the business events sector is intrinsically linked, could re-open as early as July.
He said: “[And] step three – at the earliest by July – and subject to all these conditions [the ‘five tests’] 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, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing.”
The prime minster added that throughout the period of the next two months the government will be driven by science, as opposed to “hope or economic necessity”.
“And I must stress again that all of this is conditional,” he added. “It all depends on a series of big ‘Ifs’. It depends on all of us – the entire country – to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that ‘R’ down.”
However, the prime minister did confirm that those arriving to the UK would face quarantine, stopping short of confirming the duration. He also noted that should the rate of infection again begin to climb, that the UK would return to full lockdown measures.
He said: “To prevent re-infection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.
“Of course, we will be monitoring our progress locally, regionally, and nationally and if there are outbreaks, if there are problems, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes.”
The five tests that the government will follow to asses on whether or not to relax lockdown restrictions are to protect the NHS, see a sustained fall in the death rate, see sustained and considerable falls in the rate of infection, ensure delivery of PPE and that any measures the government does take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease – the ‘R’ – back up over one.
There was no confirmation on whether or not that NHS Nightingale hospitals, or their equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were to be mothballed, only to be re-opened should a second peak of Covid-19 emerge. The field hospitals are currently set up in some of the UK’s biggest event venues, such as ExCeL London, the SEC, Harrogate Convention Centre and the NEC in Birmingham.
He also suggested that a new system would be rolled out that would highlight any regional flare ups of the disease, a result of further testing.
The prime minister is due to take questions from MPs in the House of Commons on 11 May, in which he notes further details will be revealed.
Image | 10 Downing Street official press team