A Message from Devon’s Director of Public Health

COVID-19 restrictions set to end

The Prime Minster has announced that COVID-19 restrictions are set to end in England and life will soon return to close to normal, with people’s judgement being key in learning to live with the virus.

Step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown is expected to start on Monday 19 July, subject to a final review of the data on Monday 12 July.

The news comes as a sufficiently high proportion of the population are vaccinated against COVID-19 to significantly weaken the link between infections and severe disease and death. The government say this means that the country can learn to live with coronavirus without the need for the stringent economic and social restrictions which have been in place since March 2020.

But the pandemic is not over. Cases are currently rising, as are hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths, and they will rise further as society reopens. So we are being asked to remain vigilant, make informed decisions and act carefully and proportionately to manage the risks to ourselves and others.

This new phase in the government’s response to the pandemic moves away from restrictions on everyone’s day-to-day lives and towards managing COVID-19 by advising people on how to protect themselves and others, alongside targeted interventions to reduce risk.

You can read the COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021 guidance in full on the government’s website.

What’s likely to change on Monday 19 July

The biggest change due on Monday 19 July will be the removal of outstanding legal restrictions on social contact. It means there will be no limit on how many people can meet either indoors or outdoors.

Weddings, funerals and other life events will be able to take place without limits on the number of attendees, and there will be no restrictions on singing or dancing.

All venues currently closed will be allowed to reopen, including nightclubs, and the regulations that place COVID-secure requirements on businesses, including table service and distancing between tables, will be lifted. Large events, such as music concerts and live sport can resume without limits on attendance or social distancing requirements.

COVID-status certification, checking-in using the NHS COVID-19 app and the legal requirement to wear a face covering as a condition of entry will be lifted in all settings. However, to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, people are encouraged to continue wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded spaces and support NHS Test and Trace.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout will be accelerated, with second doses brought forward to eight weeks after the first dose for all groups. This should mean that all adults will have had the opportunity to get a full course of vaccine by mid-September.

In care homes, restrictions that limit each resident to five named visitors will be lifted, but infection prevention and control measures essential to protecting residents will remain. It is likely that care homes will need to retain some level of restrictions and national guidance has yet to be updated. It is advised therefore that individuals check with the care home prior to visiting to enquire about any restrictions.

You can find out more about the changes on the government’s website.

Director of Public Health encourages people to not put themselves at unnecessary risk

It comes following the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday, in which he indicated the removal of key legislation around face coverings and social distancing.

Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon, said:

“I echo Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer’s clarification and confirmation that he will however continue wearing a mask, particularly at this point where the epidemic is clearly significant and rising.”

Professor Whitty cited three situations during the Downing Street press conference in which he would continue wearing a mask, including any situation which is indoors and crowded, or indoors within close proximity to other people. The Prime Minister gave public transport as an example.

“Positive cases are rising across the UK and in Devon, driven by the much more contagious Delta variant,” said Steve Brown.

“Coronavirus is an airborne virus. It spreads most easily when people are in close proximity and when indoors in poorly ventilated spaces.

“The wearing of face coverings and maintaining social distance may not be legal requirements from Monday 19 July, but as the Prime Minister talked of ‘balancing risk’, I encourage people to not put themselves at unnecessary risk.

“Please continue choosing to take steps that minimise risk to ourselves and to others, even when that choice is ours to make.”

Ilfracombe Town Council