Today, the second part of step one of the Government's four step plan to emerge from lockdown begins.
From today, six individuals from different households can meet together outside, OR two households can meet together outside. This new guidance includes the ability to meet in private gardens, as well as parks and open spaces.
Organised sport can also return outside, with the implementation of COVID-19 secure guidelines from National Governing Bodies of sport. Outdoor sport venues such as swimming pools, tennis courts and basketball courts can also reopen.
The 'stay at home' rule also ends on 29 March but many restrictions remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes. Travel abroad remains limited to a small number of permitted reasons.
In order to help the residents of Northamptonshire to stay as safe as possible as these relaxations come into place, the Public Health team have issued a new campaign called, "Take care in the open air". The campaign aims to provide evidence based, scientific guidance to residents, with the aim of helping individuals to take care whilst meeting others outside.
As outlined in the Government's roadmap to recovery, it is important that social distancing measures remain in place outdoors until the data shows that this can change. Some of the key messages are:
- Maintain two metre social distancing outdoors and avoid face to face close contact especially where shouting or laughing (aerosol droplets are larger and travel further when laughing or shouting)
- COVID-19 can be caught from surfaces such as play equipment, railings, gates and buttons
- Carry hand sanitiser with you when out and about and use contactless payments where possible. Take your face covering with you in case you find you need it
- Please dispose of any old face coverings in a bin. Discarded face masks pose a risk of transmission and add to unwanted litter so please discard of them safely in a bin
- Finally, when meeting in private gardens in particular, avoid sharing items, keep two metres from others, even family who you do not live with, and stay alert if you are consuming alcohol, and keep following the guidance.
These messages will appear across social media, bus stops, digital vans and in open spaces over coming weeks. They are there to help residents to keep safe and remain within the guidelines, which will help us progress towards step two on the roadmap, planned for April 12.
The Government roadmap outlines four steps for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of the previous step. This assessment will be based on four tests:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health at Northamptonshire County Council said:
The further relaxing of measures today is welcome news for many of us and allows us the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family for the first time since before Christmas. The impact of lockdown will have had a significant effect on the wellbeing of many of our residents and the relaxing of these measures enables the first step on the road to recovery both as a county, as well as individuals and communities.
Our 'Take care in the open air' campaign is being launched to help our residents understand the current risks and how to reduce them. There are risks of transmission outside, particularly when not socially distanced or directly face to face, so we want to clearly convey the behaviours that are safer and that keep others safe.
We will get through this together if we look after each other"