Two million people are freed from lockdown: Vulnerable Brits who’ve been shielding since March are told it is safe – but public is warned not to ‘tear the pants’ out of liberty as crowds flock to beaches in hot weather
- People who have been shielding will be allowed to see one person from outside their households
- Boris Johnson last night hailed the ‘resilience’ of those who have been shielding since March, with many having no face-to-face contact since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Groups of six from different households will be allowed to meet but social distancing must be observed
- England’s deputy chief medical officer pleaded with Britons ‘not to tear the pants out of’ loosened lockdown
- Crowds flocked to beaches yesterday in defiance of the lockdown rules that remained in force over weekend
- Temperatures that soared to 80F (27C) with the country enjoying the sunniest spring since records began
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Families across England will finally be able to see their elderly relatives again tomorrow, as millions of vulnerable people ‘shielding’ are allowed to spend time outdoors.
As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, 2.2 million vulnerable people will be able to go outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines. Those who live alone will be able to meet outside with one other person from another household, in a move that will bring joy to thousands.
The Prime Minister said: ‘I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance – it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved. I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last ten weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.
He spoke after England’s deputy chief medical officer yesterday pleaded with Britons ‘not to tear the pants out of’ the loosened lockdown when more freedoms are granted on Monday.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned that abusing new liberties would fuel the spread of infection and said that the lifting of curbs should be treated as if gently lifting the lid on a coiled spring – ‘painstakingly’ slow.
The top scientific adviser said the country was at a ‘very dangerous moment’ in the crisis and gave his colourful instruction to the public as thousands of sun-seekers packed on to beaches to bask in scorching weather.
It comes as official mobility data shows the number of people venturing out to parks has increased far above pre-lockdown levels as people look to socialise in outdoor spaces.
The warning also came as crowds flocked to beaches and parks yesterday in defiance of the lockdown rules that remained in force over the weekend.
They were tempted by temperatures that soared to 80F (27C) with the country enjoying the sunniest spring since records began and the driest May since 1862.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Boris Johnson has issued a stern rebuke to his aide Dominic Cummings, warning that he ‘will not tolerate’ another media firestorm. The Prime Minister has ordered his top adviser to stay firmly out of the public eye following the crisis caused by his lockdown trip from London to Durham.
- Restless Britons on Satruday brushed aside warnings from police and scientists and were tempted outdoors by scorching temperatures, which climbed to highs of 82F
- Britain recorded 215 more Covid-19 deaths on Saturday, taking the official number of coronavirus victims to 38,376 – but it is the lowest Saturday total since lockdown began;
- Three SAGE scientists warned over the weekend that the lockdown is being lifted too quickly
- Thousands of sunbathers were forced to cram together at Durdle Door today as air ambulance helicopters were called to reports of three people seriously injured after jumping off cliffs into the sea
- A long, hot summer could help curb the spread of Covid-19, according to a top epidemiologist.
As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, 2.2 million vulnerable people will be able to go outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines. Pictured: Visitors and sunbathers flock to Durdle Door at Lulworth in Dorset on a scorching hot sunny day
Britons have been urged ‘not to tear the pants out of’ the loosened lockdown when more freedoms are granted on Monday by England’s deputy chief medical officer amid fears too quick an easing would rapidly increase the spread of infection
A family wearing plastic visors to protect themselves from coronavirus had a picnic on the beach at Ruislip Lido in west London
Britain abandoned test and trace for coronavirus earlier this year because officials could only handle FIVE cases per week, SAGE documents show
Britain abandoned test and tracing for the coronavirus earlier in the pandemic because the system could only cope with five cases a week, it has emerged.
Official documents from the Government’s Sage advisory committee reveal that the routine testing and tracing of contacts of people with the virus was stopped because Public Health England was facing a desperate shortage of capacity.
Since the first Covid-19 cases were confirmed in York on January 31, 272,826 people in the UK have since tested positive for the virus.
This week the Government launched the NHS England’s Test and Trace programme, with 25,000 contact tracing staff and the capacity to trace the 10,000 contacts per day.
The decision to scrap routine testing for those displaying symptoms 12 weeks ago is now being seen as a major factor for how the UK has the fifth-highest total number of infections.
Sage documents show how, in a meeting on February 18, advisors said that Public Health England (PHE) could only manage the contacts of five Covid cases a week, hoping to possibly increase this to 50 people.
Minutes from the meeting say: ‘Currently PHE can cope with five new cases a week (requiring isolation of 800 contacts).
‘I will do what I can, in line with the scientific advice, to continue making life easier for you over the coming weeks and months.’
The announcement came alongside a relaxing of rules to allow groups of up to six people from different households to exercise together from tomorrow.
‘That means that people who play team sports will be able to play together, and do things like conditioning and fitness sessions that don’t involve physical contact,’ Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said last night.
But Britain’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam warned people not to take advantage of the relaxed rules.
He told yesterday’s Downing Street press conference: ‘This is a very dangerous moment – we have to get this right. People have to be sensible and proportionate with their freedoms.’
The updated guidance provides a much-needed boost to those most at risk who have been staying in their homes to protect themselves and the Health Service.
From Monday, people in England can meet up to five members of another household at one time, as long as the six people meeting do so outside while keeping at least two metres apart. Many schools in England are also due to open in the biggest easing of the lockdown yet.
Four members of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) have criticised the moves, saying they are coming too soon and risk worsening the pandemic.
Prof Van-Tam defended the easing, saying the chance of it pushing ‘R’ – the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to, on average – above one was ‘extremely low indeed’. But he tempered his words with caution, making it clear that if people went further than the guidelines allowed, or stretched their definition, the pandemic could worsen.
Ministers must massively speed up coronavirus testing or risk their contact tracing plan falling ‘dead in the water’, warn doctors
Ministers must massively speed up coronavirus testing or risk their much-vaunted contact tracing plan falling ‘dead in the water’, doctors warned last night.
Currently almost half of test results are failing to come back within 48 hours, leaving the new army of 25,000 tracers racing to get in touch with contacts of newly confirmed cases in time.
Delays can mean chains of infection could quickly spread – thwarting plans to ease lockdown restrictions.
On Friday, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said tracers should aim to have contacts of confirmed cases isolating within 48 to 72 hours of a test taking place.
Any delay beyond that would have a ‘significant impact’ on the ability to stem the virus, they said.
But experts last night said long delays for test results were still the norm, meaning efforts to trace contacts would come far too late as these individuals could already have passed the virus on to others by then.
Speaking at yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing, he said people had a responsibility ‘to actually follow the guidance. Don’t tear the pants out of it, and don’t go further than the guidance actually says’.
He gave the example of a person choosing to meet multiple groups of five from other households during different times in one day, which strictly speaking will be allowed from Monday, but would be against the spirit of the guidance.
This new freedom has ‘to be taken in a reasonable measure’, he said.
He added: ‘It’s like having a spring in a box and you’ve got the lid on. Now you can take the lid off a little, but you haven’t disconnected the spring or broken the spring in any way. If you take the lid right off, the spring is still under tension. Off it will go again.’
The warning came as crowds flocked to beaches and parks yesterday in defiance of the lockdown rules that remained in force over the weekend.
They were tempted by temperatures that soared to 80F (27C) with the country enjoying the sunniest spring since records began and the driest May since 1862. Thousands crammed on to Durdle Door beach in Lulworth, Dorset, ignoring social distancing.
Four of the nation’s top scientists – all on the government’s Sage panel of experts steering the crisis response – have also voiced concerns that lockdown is being lifted ‘too early’.
Prof Peter Horby yesterday morning lined up behind Sir Jeremy Farrar and Prof John Edmunds to break ranks and caution measures were being relaxed when the infection rate was still not low enough.
Prof Horby also expressed serious doubts about the contact-tracing system, which has been heralded as the ticket out of blanker lockdown. He said: ‘As we know, it’s not yet fully operational so that is where the risk lies.’
Professor John Edmunds said many experts would ‘prefer’ to see the number of Covid-19 infections drop before measures such as a relaxation on social interaction restrictions were introduced.
Latest data from the Office for National Statistics suggests there are an estimated 54,000 new coronavirus infections a week in England outside of hospital and care settings, equating to nearly 8,000 per day.
The so-called R value, or reproduction rate, is currently between 0.7 and 0.9, and must remain under one to avoid a rise in infections – a key test on whether lockdown measures should be eased, with the Government stressing the need to avoid a second wave of cases which would threaten to overwhelm the NHS.
Prof Edmunds, speaking during a Science Media Centre briefing, said the decision to relax certain rules came with a degree of risk.
He said: ‘I think many of us would prefer to see the incidence driven down to lower levels because that would mean we have fewer cases occurring before we relaxed the measures.
‘If we had incidents at a lower level, even if the reproduction level went up a bit, we wouldn’t be in a position where we were overwhelming the health service.
‘I think at the moment with relatively high incidents, relaxing the measures and with an untested track and trace system, I think we are taking some risk here.
‘Even if that risk doesn’t play out and we keep the incidents flat, we’re keeping it flat at quite a high level. The Government has launched its track and trace system designed to limit the spread of infection by ordering contacts of those who become infected with coronavirus to isolate
Prof Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, supported the decision to essentially substitute a ‘blanket approach’ to containing the virus with a targeted one, adding it saw a return to ‘some level of normality’.
He added: ‘None of us think, who have looked at this in any great detail, that that will be sufficient to be able to hold the reproduction number below one.
‘We all think we will have to have quite significant numbers of wider social distance measures in place.
‘The basic reproduction number for this virus is perhaps three, maybe even more, so we cannot relax our guard by very much at all.’
He said there was a need to try and get the economy restarted, to get people back to work and to provide a boost to people’s mental health.
But he said even if track and trace kept the R-value at about one, it would still result in around 8,000 community infections a day in England.
Government measures of support for those shielding from coronavirus will continue, including the delivery of food or medicines, phone calls and support from volunteers. To date, more than 2.25 million boxes of essential food have been delivered to those at highest risk across England, with up to 200,000 phone calls a day made to confirm their support needs are being met.
The Prime Minister also praised the efforts of those involved in providing care for the elderly, including 500,000 NHS volunteers.
He said: ‘I also want to recognise the hundreds of thousands of extraordinary volunteers who have supported you in shielding.
‘Whether through delivering medicines and shopping, or simply by checking in on those isolating, they should feel deeply proud of the part they have played in this collective effort.’
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is expected to set out plans today to review shielding guidance at regular points in the coming weeks.
Shielding advice will be constantly checked at each review point for ongoing social distancing measures, with the next review set to take place later in June.
The relaxed guidance is based on the latest clinical advice, which shows the average chance of catching the virus is now one in 1,000 – down from one in 40.
Those being shielded are warned they still remain at risk and are advised to leave the house only once a day. They should not go to work or the shops and avoid crowded places.
Beach-goers were crammed together to make room for air ambulances to land at Durdle Door in Dorset yesterday after four people injured themselves jumping off 200ft cliffs into the sea.
People enjoy the sunshine on the beach at Southend-On-Sea in Essex as temperatures soared to 82F in the UK
Huge crowds descended on the remote beaches including Durdle Door at Lulworth in Dorset today as official mobility data showed a large increase in the number of people travelling to parks
Those being shielded are warned they still remain at risk and are advised to leave the house only once a day. They should not go to work or the shops and avoid crowded places
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned that abusing new liberties would fuel the spread of infection and said that the lifting of curbs should be treated as if gently lifting the lid on a coiled spring – ‘painstakingly’ slow. Pictured: Bournemouth beach
Hot summer could curb the spread of Covid-19 as virus particles spread in water will evaporate in sunny weather, says top epidemiologist
A long, hot summer could help curb the spread of Covid-19, according to a top epidemiologist.
Professor Keith Neal of Nottingham University said some virus particles were spread in minuscule specks of water that would evaporate in sunny weather.
Stripped of moisture, the particles infect people for a much shorter time and surfaces are less likely to be contaminated.
‘Viruses don’t like getting dried out because it disrupts the fatty “envelope” that surrounds the protein shell,’ said Prof Neal. He added that very strong ultra-violet light also degraded the virus, although it was unclear if summer sunlight was intense enough.
However, the breezes of recent days may help disperse the virus. This matters because the number of particles a person is exposed to – called the viral load – is crucial.
Most people’s immune systems will cope with a few dozen virus particles, but become overwhelmed when exposed to hundreds or thousands of them.
Another reason that summer may help curb the virus is that people tend to socialise farther apart when they are outside.
Prof Neal said: ‘There’s more inherent social distancing.
‘Outside, if you’re within a metre of me, then you’re invading my personal space.’
However, he warned: ‘A warm summer won’t be any good for the virus, but how much damage it will do, we don’t know. It won’t get rid of it completely.’
Mobility data shows that more Britons are flocking to parks to socialise than they did before the lockdown
New mobility data shows that Britons are flocking to parks to socialise in the scorching weather as lockdown restrictions are eased.
More Britons are socialising in parks and other public spaces now than across the whole of lockdown, new mobility data shows.
There has been an 136% increase in the amount of people gathering in parks when compared to a baseline figure from before lockdown, according to Google‘s mobility data.
There has been an 136% increase of the amount of people socialising in parks this month, according to Google’s mobility data
More Britons are socialising in parks and other public spaces now than across the whole of lockdown, the data shows. Pictured, people in Victoria Park in east London on May 30
Police chiefs have attempted to stamp out mass flouting before the easing of lockdown measures by threatening to impose fines. Pictured, men playing with a football in Victoria Park, east London
This also includes people gathering in other public spaces, including marinas, public beaches and public gardens.
This month has seen temperatures reaching almost 86F (30C) with an average of just 1.25in (31.8mm) of rainfall across the UK so far month, setting it up to be the driest May in 124 years.
Places of residence have also seen a 26% increase in mobility during lockdown, but most people are socialising in parks as scorching weather hits the UK this month.
This is when compared to a baseline figure over a five-week period from January 3 until February 6.
But there has been a huge decline in people visiting transport hubs, shops and workplaces since the Government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 23.
This comes after Boris Johnson announced that from Monday, groups of up to six people will be allowed to meet in public spaces, including parks.
Britons will even be allowed to meet for barbecues under the new lockdown easing measures, meaning parks will remain one of the only spaces for safe gatherings.
An Apple mobility tracker has also shown a huge rise in the amount of travel since the beginning of lockdown.
Apple mobility tracker also shows a surge in the amount of travel across the UK as the lockdown begins to be eased
But sun-seekers have been warned not to take advantage of the easing of lockdown, as Britons have been photographed out in masses this weekend. Pictured, people enjoy the warm weather on bikes in Fields park, London.
The figures remain around 20% below the baseline average, as Britons were urged to avoid public transport amid lockdown, but the number of drivers has hugely increased since lockdown easing measures were announced.
The number of people walking is still 29% below the baseline but has hugely increased across the last month, as Britons are given more freedom amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Restless Britons were photographed gathering in parks as the baking temperatures climbed to highs of 82F (28C).
Scorching temperatures hit highs of 81.5F (27.5C) in Kinlochewe in the Scottish Highlands, which basked in warmer weather than Morocco.
London’s Heathrow recorded highs of 78F (25.7C) and Bude in Cornwall saw the mercury climb to 77F (25.3C).
But sun-seekers have been warned not to take advantage of the gradual easing of lockdown, as Britons have been photographed out in masses this weekend.
The current lockdown allows the public to travel to beauty spots to sunbathe with members of their household, or to meet one person from another household at a two-metre distance.
Police chiefs were braced for mass flouting and warned their officers faced an impossible situation of trying to force the public to comply with existing rules while knowing many of these curbs are set to be dropped on Monday.
Merseyside Police warned that people would be fined if they turned up to parks and beaches in large groups across the city.
Superintendent Jonathan Davies said: ‘I know people will be tempted to get outside. This is a reminder that the rules on spending time with only one other person from another household remains in place this weekend.’
Keep your hair on! 1,000 customers queue for a trim on waiting lists at Britain’s top hair salons – as owners say they want to open in mid-June alongside other non-food retailers
If you’re hoping for a haircut as soon as salons are allowed to open, prepare for disappointment – as waiting lists at some of Britain’s top establishments have topped 1,000 customers.
Richard Ward, who styled the Duchess of Cambridge’s hair on her wedding day, said he has 1,200 clients on the waiting list at his Chelsea salon – enough to keep his team of 100 busy for a month.
And with the list growing by 100 more hopeful customers every day, he plans to open 12 hours a day, seven days a week to try to tackle the backlog, just as soon as he is allowed to – which is currently expected to be July 4 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Toni & Guy has 1,000 clients on the waiting list at its branch in Sloane Square, Chelsea; 800 at Wimbledon; and even 300 at East Grinstead.
Mr Ward, whose other clients include Queen Rania of Jordan and Donald Trump’s ex-wife Ivana, said: ‘If we were opening this week, people could swallow that. But there’s another five weeks to wait and people are getting desperate.’
He said has been deluged with requests for illicit private appointments in customers’ gardens, but has turned them all down
‘We’re a high-profile salon and we have to be whiter than white,’ he said. ‘We have told all our staff that it is a disciplinary offence to do any customers during lockdown. No salon should be doing haircuts.’
However, he said two rival London salons have been bending the rules and ‘sneakily offering appointments on the quiet’.
His wife Hellen, who runs the business with him, called those who broke guidelines ‘despicable’, adding: ‘We have been begged and begged to do people’s hair, but it’s not a good look when the Government has been so fantastic by providing furlough support.’
She also warned people not to colour their hair at home, as it will take too long to fix later. ‘We cannot give you a four-hour appointment to sort your hair out,’ she said.
Hellen said that safely reopening the 5,000 sq ft salon, where haircuts cost up to £325, would be a ‘logistical nightmare’.
Only half the 45 styling chairs will be used, and staff and clients will wear PPE such as masks and gloves.
Toni & Guy also plans to reopen its 172 salons with extended opening times, while hairdressers will hold consultations either by phone or online before appointment to speed up the process.
During lockdown, the company has been inundated with people asking for styling tips to look good on webcams.
The Hair and Barber Council, which represents 11,000 of the UK’s 40,000 hairdressers, says many salon owners want to open on June 15, alongside other non-food retailers.