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The Next Chapter

On the 17th July, the Prime Minister made a statement (which you can read HERE) on Covid-19, outlining some of the plans for further easing of restrictions, as well as how the Government plans to protect the NHS through the winter.

The government also published a further roadmap document, with the detailed plans for these measures, which you can read HERE.

Below is a summary of the announcements. 1 August From 1 August, leisure centres may re-open, close-contact beauty treatments (such as facials) may resume, and casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks may re-open. Indoor performances in theatres and music venues may resume, and wedding receptions of up to 30 people may take place. Pilots will take place, which if successful, will allow fans to return to sports stadia in October. Test and trace Cases of Covid-19 in the community remain low, as echoed by the ONS surveys (which samples over 100,000 members of the population. The number of people testing positive continues to fall the percentage of people testing positive falling from a weekly rate of 12.2% on 29 June to 4.8% yesterday. Where local outbreaks occur, local authorities will now have the power to close outdoor areas, shops and other premises to enable a fast response to local issues as and when they arise. It is now the case, and has been for some time, that anyone, anywhere in the UK with symptoms can get a test without delay. We are also testing increasing numbers of people who don’t have symptoms but who are at higher risk.

As we approach winter, we will need to go further – not least as many more people will show Covid-like symptoms as a result of seasonal illnesses, and therefore require a test. We will further increase testing capacity to at least half a million antigen (the test which shows if the patient has Covid-19) tests a day – 3.5 million antigen tests a week – by the end of October. Protecting the NHS over winter It is possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months – and it is certain that the NHS will face the usual, annual winter pressures.

In order to prepare, we have increased the number of ventilators available to patients across the UK – up from 9,000 before the pandemic to nearly 30,000 now. We will be rolling out the biggest ever flu vaccination programme in the history of the U.K.

We will also be providing an additional £3 billion of funding to the NHS in England to get ready for winter, on top of the additional £30 billion of funding for health and social care that we have already announced.

This will allow the NHS to continue to use the extra hospital capacity acquired from the independent sector and also to maintain the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March.

Longer term

Despite the easing of lockdown measures over the past month, cases of Covid-19 continue to fall. If that continues to be the case, we will review the necessity for the outstanding measures and allow a more significant return to normality. This would start with removing the need to distance people, while retaining limited mitigations like face coverings and plastic screens in shops. Our ambition is that this may be possible by November at the earliest, however this would be contingent on a number of factors, including consideration of the specific challenges as we move into winter, as described above.

This timeline represents our ambition to return to normality, however we are ready to apply the handbrake on the plan set out above, if required. In parts of the world, cases of the virus are rising rapidly and we want to avoid that in the UK. People and businesses should be prepared for the eventuality that we pause our timetable for reopening, or reverse changes in a targeted way to respond to new outbreaks. This would only be done if absolutely necessary.

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