/Paths out of lockdown: questions Boris Johnson must answer

Paths out of lockdown: questions Boris Johnson must answer

Boris Johnson will address the nation on Sunday to set out a road map for how England might leave the Covid-19 lockdown. Any immediate changes have been billed as modest and incremental, but people are expecting more details on how life could differ over the next few weeks. Here are the questions the prime minister needs to answer:

Will I be able to go outside more?

Restrictions on being able to exercise only once a day could be lifted and for a number of weeks “outside time” has been seen as a natural area to make a change. Suggestions include being allowed outside for longer periods, or more than once a day, with the journeys starting and ending at home. The chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has said publicly there is a reduced risk of catching coronavirus outdoors, which was repeated in recent days by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. After reports of people being moved on by police, park benches taped up and places to picnic closed, the public are keen to know whether they can make the most of the warmer months, and specifically if they can sunbathe or eat outside.

Can I go to the garden centre?

Garden centres will open from Monday in Wales so long as physical distancing is in place. Johnson will need to address whether English garden centres will reopen, in line with rumours, as part of initial eased restrictions. The horticulture sector was extremely vocal in March on how closing the UK’s 2,000 garden centres would cripple the industry as it is a peak time and thousands of plants were expected to be binned. Allowing a nation of gardeners back into garden centres would no doubt be popular, as the “stay at home” rule has meant more time for some spent in a garden or outdoor space.

When will children return to school?

Students study maths at home while the UK lockdown continues.

Students study maths at home while the UK lockdown continues. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

This is key because only when children are back in school can parents return to their place of work. Schools and businesses reopening will work in tandem. It has been suggested that primary school pupils may go back in June, however unions have said it would be safest for children not to return until September. Scotland has said they will not reopen until the autumn term and Wales has said pupils will not go back on 1 June.

I am over 70, will special rules apply to me?

Currently the over-70s are asked to pay very strict attention to physical-distancing rules regardless of health conditions because the government says they are at increased risk of falling more severely ill with the virus. Johnson will need to say clearly whether there will be specific restrictive measures for the over-70s, while the rest of the country is given a pathway out of lockdown. Age UK and various MPs have said there can be no justification for keeping the over-70s at home while other age groups are given more liberty unless there is clear medical advice.

When can I go to the pub?

A question on many people’s lips is when the favoured pastime of a drink down the local pub may return. Johnson will want to speak to the hospitality sector, which is suffering hugely because the nature of their businesses means physical distancing is hard to achieve. Pub landlords have asked whether beer gardens could reopen with drinks ordered via an app, but it is thought that pubs and cafes reopening is far down the list of government priorities.

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Will I have to wear a face mask?

The prime minister has said a face covering could have a role to play in the long-term strategy to ease lockdown and people will want to know whether they should be wearing them every time they leave the house and in places such as public transport.

Can I return to work?

A sign of how the workplace could function in future would be helpful for businesses to plan their office layouts and shift patterns. This could take many weeks to organise so Johnson may choose to give people time to prepare when he sets out his roadmap. There have been suggestions that those who can work from home will be asked to continue to do so, with virtual meetings recommended rather than gatherings of people in one place.

I am shielding, will this continue?

He will need to speak directly to those undergoing 12 weeks of shielding at home because of specific medical conditions. The restrictions on this group are most onerous because they are not allowed to leave home to go to the shops and it is the most socially isolating of all the restrictions. People will be keen to know whether shielding is expected to continue beyond June.

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