After nearly two months of national lockdown, Britain was finally informed of a path to freedom on the 22nd February. However, with Coronavirus cases still in their thousands, questions have been raised as to whether this will really be the UK's last lockdown.
Boris Johnson's highly anticipated press conference felt like solace for so many. The details, which were given in the House of Commons before a broadcast on national television, set out a series of stages the UK will have to go through before social distancing measures are ultimately scrapped.
The Prime Minister states the plan will 'cautiously but irreversibly guide us towards reclaiming our freedoms' (Source: UK Parliament YouTube). As expected, the 'road map' is long and highly subjective. With pressure and excitement building, what are the best and worst parts of this journey? Let's take a look.
The Good Points
Here are some of the more positive decisions the government have made:
Widely known for their rash decisions and hasty judgement, this Conservative government didn't do the best job in lifting lockdown last year. This year, I think the slow and steady approach is a wise decision. Whether they stick to this plan will remain to be seen, but it's a step in the right direction.
Keeping pubs and restaurants closed. Government plans reveal pubs are to remain closed until the 17th May at the earliest. Personally, I understand the economic implications of the closed sector, however, enforcing social distancing rules in pubs were proven to be extremely difficult last summer. Risking another wave just so people can have a cold pint would have been a damaging political move.
Opening the gyms. Throughout the pandemic there have been campaigns to re-open places of exercise. For many, gyms provide not only physical fitness but mental wellness. I can guarantee that once gyms re-open, the happiness of millions of people will soar.
The Bad Points
With the good must come the bad, and we must always hold the government to account:
Opening the schools. As much as I'm all for the education of children, it doesn't take a genius to look at the surge of cases at the start of September just after schools returned. Even more worrying is the fact that testing and masks in schools are 'unenforceable' (Source: The Guardian). I desperately worry for a third wave schools could create, and the implications it will have for the rest of us.
The vaccine 'priority groups'. Let me start of by saying how I commend the vaccine roll out. Everyone in my family who needed their vaccine has had their first dose. Nonetheless, vaccinating from the top down is only effective to a certain extent. Why are teachers not being prioritised? What about police officers and shop workers who are keeping the country going, equally at risk from catching and transmitting the virus?
The dates. Putting a date on things has always remained impossible for the government. We can't turn round and state the 21st of June as some alternate 4th of July, because we simply don't know what's coming. Like everyone else I am so excited to have my life back, but I'm not planning my entire life around the premise that the 21st of June will be the greatest day of my life. Of course, I want it to go ahead, but we need to bear in mind that it might not happen.
Moving forward, I'm cautiously optimistic about summer and the future. Nearly 20 million vaccines have now been distributed and both cases and deaths are slowing down. I want to get excited, and I want to plan for the future, but we can never know what's around the corner.