Please note that the information in this article regarding shielding measures and timelines around the easing of lockdown have been updated as indicated by the dates within the article.
CLDF is aware that the 4 nations in the UK have been announcing very different decisions about the easing of lockdown, making it difficult for people to keep track of the changes applicable to them. This week we have heard about plans for Scotland and Northern Ireland. In this article we have provided a short breakdown of the key areas our families and young people may need to be aware of.
Scotland has had one of the toughest lockdown restrictions in the UK so far. However, yesterday Nicola Sturgeon outlined her four-phase ‘route map’ for a phased easing of lockdown starting from next Thursday 28th May – as long as the rate of infection does not rise above one. As with other plans there are no set dates for when all these phases will be put in place because it all relies on the changes in rate of infection.
Phase 1 includes aspects such as people being able to sit or sunbathe in open areas and people meeting individuals from one other household. This must be outside and people should remain two metres apart. People will be able to travel for recreation purposes but will be asked to remain within or close to their local area. It is also suggested that people travel by walking or cycling where possible. NHS services that were cancelled because of the coronavirus will carefully and gradually resume.
Shielding: new guidance about shielding is to be released before the end of the current period on 18th June 2020. The government does not want people to shield for any longer than necessary due to the impact on their quality of life. For this reason, a clear way forward will be published in the coming weeks to allow informed choices while continuing to protect people as much as possible from the risk the virus poses. Update 08.06.2020: First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that shielding for those in Scotland has been extended to 31st July. From Thursday 18th June, those shielding should be able to leave the house for exercise with those they live with but not meet those from other households. Social distancing should be abided by. Advice and guidance for those shielding will continue to be reviewed and eased where possible before the end of July. More tailored advice and tools are in development for specific conditions, however, due to the complexity and large number of conditions to take in account, greater evidence is required before these are published. Those affected in Scotland should receive letters outlining these updates. Nicola Sturgeon was clear that those shielding have not been forgotten and are integral to every decision they make. You can read further information here.
Schools: Schools will reopen on 11th August with a ‘blended model’ where children will do a mix of onsite schooling and home learning. There will be transition support in place where possible for children going into Primary 1 or moving from primary to secondary schools. Teachers will return to school in June.
For full details of the route map, visit https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making-scotlands-route-map-through-out-crisis/
The Northern Ireland Executive has also announced a phased approach to easing lockdown. Like Scotland it does not provide a set timetable, but it states that it hopes to reach the final stage by December. The process of easing lockdown may not begin until the end of May.
Phase 1 includes encouraging those unable to work from home to return to their workplace on phased basis. Groups of 4 to 6 people who do not share a household will be able to meet outdoors maintaining social distancing. Visits to immediate family will be allowed indoors where social distancing is possible (except for those who are shielding). Outdoor spaces and public sport amenities will open. People will be able to undertake walking, running, cycling, some water activities, golf and tennis.
Shielding: there is little mention of shielding within their plans but CLDF will keep you updated on any further announcements. Update 05.06.2020: Vulnerable people in Northern Ireland advised to shield during the coronavirus lockdown are able to go outdoors again from Monday 8 June. They are able to go out with members of their household or if living alone can meet one person from another household whilst keeping to social distancing rules, hygiene precautions and avoiding crowded areas.
Schools: Reopening of schools would begin with priority cohorts (those students preparing for exams and students transitioning from primary to post-primary schools) on a part-time basis in August, followed by a phased provision for all pupils at the beginning of September. A blended learning approach will be taken using a combination of in-school and remote learning. In the final phase, early year school provision will be expanded to a full-time basis.
For full details of each phase, visit https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/execoffice/execuitveour-approach-to-decision-making.pdf
Wales have developed a traffic light system. The Red, Amber and Green system represents phases to show how the government plans to lift restrictions in key areas.
Red phase – schools will be expected to manage an expansion of key worker children criteria. Greater local travel will be allowed. There will also be some opening of outdoor, cultural and other sites.
Amber phase – people will be able to exercise with one other person or a small group but must maintain social distancing. Priority groups of children will return to school in a phased approach. Town centres and high streets will be adapted to facilitate shopping and accessing services under social distancing.
Green phase – all children and students will be able to access education at school. There will be unrestricted travel subject to ongoing precautions and all sports, leisure and cultural activities. Socialising with friends will be allowed but with social distancing.
Shielding: there is limited published information about updates to shielding guidance in Wales. However, CLDF will keep you informed as we learn more. Update 01.06.2020: Vulnerable people in Wales advised to shield during the coronavirus lockdown are able to go outdoors again from Monday 1st June. They are able to go out with members of their household or if living alone can meet one person from another household whilst keeping to social distancing rules, hygiene precautions and avoid crowded areas. Read more here. Update 04.06.2020: It has been announced that those shielding in Wales have been asked to continue until 16 August. Letters sent will explain how shielding guidance has changed to enable them to go outdoors to meet other people.
Schools: While lockdown continues, schools are only open to vulnerable pupils and children of key workers. CLDF will update you when this situation changes. Update 03.06.2020: An announcement has been made that schools in Wales will reopen on 29 June. They will be open to pupils from all year groups with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. Only a third of pupils will be in school at any one time. Parents who choose not to send their child to school will not be fined and those within the shielding category will continue with online learning. It is important that you engage and communicate with your child’s school to ensure they are aware of your circumstances.
For full information about the Wales roadmap, visit https://gov.wales/unlocking-our-society-and-economy-wales-roadmap-published
The ongoing message through all nations at this time is still to #StayHome and walk/cycle where possible. We hope that as we continue through this process all four nations will provide clear information so that individuals and families can exercise judgement and responsibility in their decisions.
Where further information is published regarding shielding and vulnerable groups, CLDF will keep you informed via our website and social media platforms.