Living with coronavirus
6 July 2021
Sixteen months after the initial lockdown announcement, the Prime Minister said yesterday that Covid-19 restrictions are set to end in England on Monday, 19 July, subject to a final data review next week.
Personal judgement will now have to be exercised in learning to live with the virus, he said.
This is at a time when the number of cases is rising and expected to keep on doing so in the short term. Boris Johnson set out how cases could rise to 50,000 per day by 19 July, with daily hospital admissions and deaths also rising although more slowly.
Indeed, the prime minister said yesterday, “This pandemic is far from over.”
However, the belief is that the scale of the vaccination rollout will mean the impact will reduce. Over 79 million vaccine doses have now been administered in the UK, every adult has now been offered at least one dose, and 64% of adults have received two doses.
The governments of the other UK nations will announce their lockdown easing intentions later this month. (Yesterday it was reported that Scotland has the highest Covid rates in Europe. National clinical director Jason Leitch said Scotland had been hit hard by the infectious Delta variant becoming "seeded" in Glasgow.)
As the positive stories on the blog have shown, the construction industry has generally been able to keep working throughout the pandemic, due to social distancing and other protective measures.
Hirers serving in other sectors like events and hospitality will hope that the further lifting of restrictions will help them recover.
Limits on social contact will end, meaning there will be no restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings. Weddings, funerals and other life events will also be able to take place without limits or restrictions.
Face coverings will no longer be legally required in shops, schools, hospitality, or on public transport although people can use their judgments if they deem it necessary, and the 1m plus social distancing rule will be lifted.
The guidance to work from home where possible will also end, to allow employers to start planning a safe return to workplaces.
Indeed, hirers in major cities will hope that workers returning to offices in numbers will encourage restaurants, bars and clubs to proceed with refurbishment and expansion plans that were out on hold.
However, there are still challenges ahead. When the blog started a year ago, the prevailing opinion amongst public bodies and health organisations was very much that life would never be the same again: we would emerge from lockdown into a ‘new normal'.
There would be new social norms and redesigned public facilities to restrict the impact of a future virus - let alone a variant - whose appearance, we were told, was a case of when, not if.
So politicians and employers now have to persuade people to go back to work and go about their business as they did before 23 March 2020, rather than working from home. Many, indeed, have been on furlough throughout that time. And the furlough scheme will be unwound at the end of September.
Will the 'new normal' turn out to be the old one? After yesterday’s announcement you could be forgiven for thinking so.