Thursday 28 May 2020


We've seen another significant moment this week with the launch today of the NHS Test and Trace service. This, fast on the heels of the announcement last Friday that local councils will be at the forefront in responding to local outbreaks, in order to control infection and ensure that the public can be protected from further spread.

The two are complementary, and are vital steps in our recovery and return to more normal lives. 

This week we’ve heard that non-essential shops will be opening soon; some school year groups will be returning to classrooms next week and we’re seeing more people out and about and traffic on our roads indicates more people are travelling. All this, but with restrictions. All this, but requiring all of us to remain vigilant, especially with regards to vulnerable and shielded friends and family members.

Many of us, perhaps parents of children returning to school next week, will be feeling mixed emotions. That’s understandable. Our schools are doing all they can to maintain normality, while keeping pupils and staff safe. 

So this week, let’s remember how far we’ve come. Let’s clap for our NHS and care workers one last time. But let’s continue to look out for and support each other, at home, at work, and in our daily lives.

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives government web banner

In this update:

  • NHS Test and Trace service launches
  • Local outbreak plans being developed
  • Active at home advice for older people
  • Free webinars for businesses
  • Social distancing advice for young people
  • Schools reopening for some pupils next week
  • Take care however you travel

NHS Test and Trace infographic

NHS Test and Trace service launches

The NHS Test and Trace service has been launched today. 

The government is introducing the service to help return life more to normal, in a way that is safe and protects our NHS and social care. 

Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to find out about who they've been in close contact with recently. Then, if necessary, those they've interacted with will be notified and told they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus. 

There's more information about how the system works on the government's website, along with guidance for people who have been notified by NHS Test and Trace that they've been in contact with someone who has had a positive test result for coronavirus (COVID-19).


Coronavirus

Local outbreak plans will be supplementary to the national test and trace arrangements 

Last Friday the government announced that Councils will receive a share of an extra £300m to help establish local outbreak plans which will include local coordination and management of infection control and of local testing and tracing arrangements. 

We welcomed that announcement because it’s something we were calling for.

We’ve been asked how those plans sit alongside the government’s announcement today about national testing and tracing. 

A locally managed outbreak response which can quickly spot and then mobilise all our local resources to contain any new clusters of infection or hotspots is seen as a good way to ensure that the release of lockdown can be managed more effectively and safely.

New Covid-19 Guidelines 

Public spaces / outdoor activities / exercise

What can I do that I couldn’t do before?

There will be a limited number of things you can do on that you cannot do now: 

  • spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing
  • meet one other person from a different household outdoors - following social distancing guidelines
  • exercise outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines
  • use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court, or golf course – with members of your household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart
  • go to a garden centre

At all times, should continue to observe social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home, including ensuring you are 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. As with before, you cannot:

  • visit friends and family in their homes
  • exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool
  • use an outdoor gym or playground
  • visit a private or ticketed attraction
  • gather in a group of more than two (excluding members of your own household), except for a few specific exceptions set out in law (for work, funerals, house moves, supporting the vulnerable, in emergencies and to fulfil legal obligations)

If you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you should stay at home - this is critical to staying safe and saving lives.

I don’t have to stay at home anymore?

You should stay at home as much as possible. The reasons you may leave home include:

  • for work, where you cannot work from home
  • going to shops that are permitted to be open - to get things like food and medicine
  • to exercise or spend time outdoors
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

These reasons are exceptions and a fuller list is set out in the regulations.

Even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent away from the home and ensuring that you are two metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

Can I meet my friends and family in the park?

You can meet one other person from outside your household if you are outdoors. Public gatherings of more than 2 people from different households are prohibited in law. There are no limits on gatherings in the park with members of your household.

You can find more information on a range of activities and outdoor exercise here.


Vulnerable groups, shielding, 70 year olds and over

Does easing restrictions apply to healthy 70 year olds and over?

The advice for those aged 70 and over continues to be that they should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household.

If they do go out more frequently, they should be careful to maintain distance from others. They and everyone should continue to comply with any general social distancing restrictions.

We know that those aged 70 and over can be absolutely fit and healthy and it’s not the case that everybody over 70 has a chronic health condition or an underlying disease.

But unfortunately, we also know that as you get older, there is a higher risk of coronavirus having a more serious impact with infection. Complications and deaths are more common in the elderly, even those without pre-existing conditions.

Anyone who has been advised to shield by the NHS or their GP, including those 70 and over, should continue to do this until at least the end of June.

How long will shielding be in place?

We’ve advised individuals with very specific medical conditions to shield until the end of June and to do everything they can to stay at home. This is because we believe they are likely to be at the greatest risk of serious complications from coronavirus.

We know this is challenging guidance to follow, which is why we have a support scheme in place to provide help with access to food and basic supplies, care, medicines and social support.

We are keeping the guidance to shielded people under review.


Going to work / Safer spaces

Who is allowed to go to work?

In the first instance, employers should make every effort to support working from home, including by providing suitable IT and equipment as they have been already. This will apply to many different types of businesses, particularly those who typically would have worked in offices or online.

Where work can only be done in the workplace, we have set out tailored guidelines for employers to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running. We will be publishing even more detailed COVID-19 secure guidelines in the coming days, which has been developed in consultation with businesses and trades unions.

These ‘back to work’ guidelines apply to those in essential retail like:

  • supermarkets
  • those in construction and manufacturing
  • those working in labs and research facilities
  • those administering takeaways and deliveries at restaurants and cafes
  • tradesmen, cleaners and others who work in people’s homes
  • those who are facilitating trade or transport goods
  • and so on

Non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres will remain closed. They will reopen in a phased manner provided it is safe to do so.


Do people need to wear face coverings at work?

Face coverings are not compulsory. However, if you can, people are advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible or where you are more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet. For example, on public transport or in some shops. Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.


Public Transport

Who is allowed to travel on public transport?

If you cannot work from home and have to travel to work, or if you must make an essential journey, you should cycle or walk wherever possible. Before you travel on public transport, consider if your journey is necessary and if you can, stay local. Try to reduce your travel. This will help keep the transport network running and allows people who need to make essential journeys to travel.

We’ll be setting out further guidance for passengers with more advice on how to stay safe during your journeys later this week.

Should people wear face coverings on public transport?

If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example on public transport or in some shops. The evidence suggests that face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.

If people choose to wear them, we are asking people to make their own face coverings at home, using scarves or other textile items. We are publishing guidance to help illustrate the process.

We urge the public not to purchase medical or surgical masks as these should be reserved for health and social care workers.

Can I use public transport to get to green spaces?

You should avoid using public transport wherever possible.


Schools and Childcare

Can children go back to early years settings, schools or university?

We initially urge those who are currently eligible to use school provision (children of critical workers and vulnerable children) to attend. As soon as it is safe to do so we will bring more year groups back to school in a phased way when it is safe to have larger numbers of children within schools, but not before. Keeping children and staff safe is our utmost priority.

Schools should prepare to begin opening for more children from 1 June. The government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller class sizes from this point.

Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning.

The government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible.

How will you make sure it is safe?

Schools can now operate if they are organised in a way that is compatible with minimising the spread of the virus. The next phase of measures will require the development of new safety standards to set out how physical spaces, including schools, can be adapted to operate safely.

We will publish guidance advising schools on reopening to ensure schools can adequately prepare for the next phase. One of the main protective measures we can take to reduce transmission is to have small consistent group and class sizes.

Will children have to wear face coverings at school?

No this will not be required. We will publish further advice on protective measures in schools in the coming weeks.


Coronavirus Outbreak FAQs: Further detail on what you can and can't do

The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.

The government has published staying safe outside your home for guidance on what the new rules will mean. These will take effect on Wednesday.  Click on the link for further information.

Please note that further guidance on safe workplaces, reopening schools and travelling safely will all be published later today. Guidance on borders will follow later this week. 

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