What changes you will - and won't - see as lockdown easing begins on March 8

The long-awaited roadmap from the Prime Minister about our route out of lockdown is unsurprisingly cautious.

In the past the Government has been accused of moving out of restrictions too quickly and that is something Boris Johnson doesn't want to be accused of this time as his aim is to ensure that this current third lockdown will be our last.

On Monday 8 March few people will notice much of a change as our instruction will still be to 'stay at home', however pupils will be allowed back at school where there'll be increased testing, familiar face mask rules and limits placed on mixing of students to try and avoid outbreaks.

The other people who'll notice a significant and positive change in a fortnight will be those living in care homes, visitors will once be allowed in on a limited basis and after a negative test.

I've spoken to many carers and care home managers in recent weeks and their one major request has been to restart visits to help their residents stop feeling so isolated. 

For most people, though, the only change is that we can meet one other person outside and, legally, sit on a bench for a coffee or food.

The main instruction will still be to stay at home. That will change on the Monday 29 March when there will be a small relaxation on meeting in groups of six outside or two households and we will be allowed to mix in private gardens - no indoor mixing will be allowed or overnight stays. Outdoor sport will be able to restart then too

The PM says all decisions and timings beyond those two dates are provisional and based on the data.

Reasons to be positive in the West Country

  • More than 38 per cent of adults in the region have had their first dose of a Covid jab which is more than 1.7 million people.

  • 98% of over-70s have already had their first jab in the region.

  • The number of covid patients in our hospitals continues to fall significantly, down from 1029 patients a week ago to 775 now.

  • The number of people with the virus in intensive care is falling too, 78 this morning down from 131 last weekend

  • Infection rates across the South West continue to fall in all areas and as we have seen throughout the pandemic the more rural areas of the South West continue to see the lower levels of infection. 

  • The average daily numbers of deaths reported by our hospitals have started to fall, this is normally the last number to start falling because of the time between people becoming infected and then becoming critically unwell.

If these trends continue then the major unlocking in the second step on Monday 12 April (at the earliest) will see the removal of the stay local and stay at home messages (hopefully for ever) and overnight stays, for many this will be the first time we feel like we have a sense of freedom.

There are some MPs, especially on the Conservative back benches who feel like things should be moving quicker and they're concerned that the wider opening of the economy is not going to happen until after Easter at the earliest. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the Commons Credit: House of Commons/PA

Within the South West's tourism and hospitality industries there is a general sense of disappointment but not shock as many felt they would be left shut for longer.

However, what is completely missing today is any details of financial support for businesses that need to be closed for longer - the current furlough scheme is due to end at the end of April, but there are some pubs, hotels and restaurants that won't be able to open until May and nightclubs until June at the earliest. 

The Prime Minister is being urged by some to stop being so cautious, while there are others who think some of the relaxations are coming too quickly.

Don't forget this is just a plan and any unlockings after schools reopening and outdoor sport restarting are only being given guidance dates and could slip back if the data gets worse.

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