4 positives we can take from the Downing Street briefing on the 5th of April.
As promised I'm following up on my blog post from the 3rd of April with my thoughts on the outcome of Mondays Downing Street briefing let by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson accompanied by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Sadly, we aren't really any further forward, or are we? 🤔
I personally feel we can take 4 massive positives from this briefing,
First and foremost;
1. The roadmap to freedom is still very much on track - "We set out our roadmap and we’re sticking to it."
"And the net result of your efforts and the vaccine roll-out is that I can today confirm that from Monday 12th April, we will move to Step Two of our roadmap - re-opening shops, gyms, zoos, holiday campsites, personal care services like hairdressers and, of course, beer gardens and outdoor hospitality of all kinds."
"But – and you know I’m going to say this – we can’t be complacent.
We can see the waves of sickness afflicting other countries and we’ve seen how this story goes. We still don’t know how strong the vaccine shield will be when cases begin to rise, as I’m afraid that they will – and that’s why we’re saying, please get your vaccine or your second dose when your turn comes."
Elevating to Roadmap step 2 is deemed by scientists as low risk - as a lot of the lifting of restrictions still includes the utilising of outdoor spaces and limited mixing outdoors.
The higher risk comes when we move to step 3 on the 17th of May, where indoor leisure / indoor mixing will reopen and resume - it's here where we could again see an increase in the infection rate.
2. Cautiousness in approach
I for one feel #comforted in the more #cautious approach being applied this year by the government. In turn, I feel a #confidence and an unwavering #optimism that we will all be enjoying a #summer #holiday in #Malta this year.
Over the past twelve months, we've all bore witness to some incredulous situations. The "Eat out to help out" scheme backfired majorly as it was simply too early to encourage mingling indoors again. Then we had the promise of #Christmas, only for Christmas to have to be cancelled at the 11th hour, which was both heart-breaking and expensive for a lot of people.
Having said that I do heartily feel for Boris and the government, this #virus is so fluid and so unpredictable, and we've never been faced with anything so invisibly virulent before.
I'm #happy that the government are taking due time, deliberation and consideration - reviewing all of the data in-depth before elevating us to the next step of the Roadmap.
"And I want to stress, that we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that roadmap. But it is by being cautious, by monitoring the data at every stage and by following the rules: remembering hands, face, space and fresh air -
that we hope together to make this roadmap to freedom irreversible."
Irreversible being such a #positive keyword to take from this statement.
I personally feel when #travel opens up, it will open for good, albeit with necessary tweaks when required.
3. The confirmation of the purported traffic light system.
During Monday evening's briefing there were numerous referrals made to "the document" which the government released on Monday.
This document makes reference to the 4 points of review which are taken into account when deciding if we can elevate to the next Roadmap level.
The main one of interest to us of course is The Global Task Force's review. I'm sharing below with you the excerpt from the document relating to this.
It's a positive read overall.
Global Travel Taskforce
"The Government wants to see a return to non-essential international travel as soon as possible, while still managing the risk from imported cases and variants of concern. The Government hopes people will be able to travel to and from the UK to take a summer holiday this year, but it is still too soon to know what is possible.
The roadmap said that any return to international travel without a reasonable excuse, for example for holidays, would be no earlier than 17 May. Given the state of the pandemic abroad, and the progress of vaccination programmes in other countries, we are not yet in a position to confirm that non-essential international travel can resume from that point.
Taking into account the latest situation with variants and the evidence about the efficacy of vaccines against them, we will confirm in advance whether non-essential international travel can resume on 17 May, or whether we will need to wait longer before lifting the outbound travel restriction."
So, its a case of watch this space for the moment, but what the document did confirm is the #fabulous news that it's a green for go for the traffic light system!
"When non-essential international travel does return it will do so with a risk-based “traffic light” system. This will add to our current system a new green category with no isolation requirement on return to the UK - although pre-departure and post-arrival tests would still be needed. This new category will accommodate countries where we judge the risk to be lower, based for instance on vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity (or access to genomic sequencing). The Global Travel Taskforce will publish its report, setting out more details on this system, later this week.
It is too early to say which countries will be on the green list when non-essential international travel resumes. These decisions will be driven by the data and evidence nearer the time, which we cannot predict now."
The three categories would likely have the following restrictions.
Green - would mean people could return to the UK with no restrictions aside from the two tests.
Amber - would most likely mean people additionally having to quarantine at home for 10 days with an option to reduce the quarantine using the Test to release scheme at day 5.
Red - arrivals from red countries will have to pay to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, as well as testing. Non-British nationals/residents cannot enter at all.
Due to the success of Malta's vaccination programme there is a strong assumption that the islands will be added to the green category.
"In advance of the resumption of non-essential international travel, we will set out our initial assessment of which countries will fall into which category. Thereafter countries will move between the red, amber and green lists depending on the data."
When the restrictions for a country changed last year, they changed very quickly, with only 24-48 hours notice. It's purported this year that should a category change need to be made, it will be made with a 7 day notice period. This is yet to be confirmed but if its correct, it adds another level of #reassurance, especially for 7 day duration #holidays.
The document however still does advise holding off making any new bookings until the report is officially published. 😢
"For the moment, the Government advises people not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer."
"The vaccination programme could offer a more stable route out of the need for such restrictions - provided we see sufficient efficacy against any variants of concern - which means the role of COVID-status certification is crucial to this work."
There is also a short reference made to Covid-19 certificates
"The current intention is that, when non-essential international travel does resume, the NHS solution will facilitate international travel where certification is required, and we will look to establish arrangements with other countries and international organisations to establish mutual recognition of certificates."
If you'd like to read the whole document you can find it here, (it's fairly difficult to find online.)
4. Free lateral flow tests
One of the major #positives announced on Monday was that we are all to be given two free lateral flow tests per week. Unlike the more complicated #PCR tests, these tests produce a result in minutes and use technology more akin to a pregnancy test.
As the #UK continues to open up, these tests will be vital in diagnosing cases where the person is asymptomatic and helps to prevent that person from further spreading the virus.
Boris Johnson urged us "And please use the free NHS tests – even if you don’t feel ill, because remember 1 in 3 people with this virus doesn’t have any symptoms"
Just as importantly, if we all embrace this, I feel this will be a huge step towards limiting the possible increase in new cases once we reach Step 3 on the 17th of May, and will therefore help us to take a huge stride towards freedom.
"The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly"
Starting Friday, we will all be given access to these kits, with a new marketing campaign launching simultaneously.
Having free access to these test kits has a huge benefit for us all when it comes to travel.
Firstly the launch of these free kits fits seamlessly with the planned restart of overseas travel.
Secondly, it means that when travel does open up, we can use these kits to carry out the two mandatory tests required upon our return (for green and amber countries) saving us all a few precious pennies!
So there we have it, whilst a little disappointing, as we didn't receive the definitive answer we all craved, the outlook I feel, can most definitely be viewed in a positive promising light.
Until next time, take care and stay safe my lovelies,