In the statement the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care states that they have acted in a measured way, taking each step at a time, and looking at the latest data, and our four tests, before deciding whether to proceed.
The first test being the success of their vaccination programme. Over 80 million doses have been given in just seven months. Now around 9 in 10 adults in the UK now have COVID-19 antibodies which are so important in helping our bodies to fight the virus.
Their second is what impact the vaccination programme is having on hospitalisations and the loss of loved ones. They estimate that the vaccination programme in England has prevented between 7.5 million and 8.9 million infections over 46,000 hospitalisations and around 30,000 people losing their lives.
Their third test is around whether infection rates would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. Cases are rising, propelled by the new, more transmissible Delta variant. The average number of daily new cases is over 26,000 and this has doubled over the past 11 days. Hospitalisations are also rising, with sustained growth over the past month. However, hospitalisations are far lower than they were at this point during the previous wave. And they feel the vaccination programme is providing a protective wall for the NHS.
Their final test is that the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern. Although the Delta variant is more transmissible than the Alpha variant, their evidence shows that two doses of the vaccine appears to be just as effective against hospitalisation. They are going to maintain tough measures at the borders and expand their capacity for genomic sequencing, so they can come down hard on new variants.
The secretary of state emphasises that there are risks in going ahead with this decision, but feels if we wait longer, then we risk pushing the virus towards winter, when the virus will have an advantage, or worse still, we risk not opening up at all.
The full statement can be accessed here.
Following this announcement the Cabinet Office updated the COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021 guidance. Within that guidance is a document called Moving to step 4 of the roadmap. It provides guidance for:
- Individuals stating while we are moving away from most legal restrictions, the guidance is there to help us all act responsibly. While prevalence is high, it is essential that everybody follows the guidance and takes action to protect themselves and others.
- Businesses , setting out advice for how to understand and mitigate risks as we start to live with COVID-19.
In addition it mentions that in September 2021, the Government will undertake a review to assess the country’s preparedness for autumn and winter, which will consider whether to continue or strengthen public and business guidance as we approach the winter, including on face coverings and test, trace and isolate, and will review the remaining regulations.
The revised set of step 4 guidance can be accessed here.
In addition on 12 July 2021 the Cabinet Office updated (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do guidance.
Within that guidance is a section on England moves to Step 4 from 19 July.
While cases are high and rising, the government asks everybody to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. Whilst the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, the government would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer. They also expect and recommend that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. They also encourage and support businesses to use the NHS Covid Pass in high risk settings. Finally they recommend outside or letting fresh air in.
The revised guidance can be accessed here.
We recommend that all VCSE organisations review the revised guidance and put in provisions via your risk assessment procedures for staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries so that you can adapt to the easing of restrictions and anticipate potential changes in the autumn of 2021.