Reasons to be positive in the West Country as lockdown eases

Lockdown has eased in the UK - but what does this mean for the West Country?

Caution is the word of the week as we officially move out of a legal lockdown.

After three months exactly for Somerset, Swindon and Gloucestershire and almost three months for everyone else we are no longer being told by law to 'Stay At Home'.

This week's easing of restrictions focuses on our freedom rather than reopening the economy.

There is a real focus on this stage of easing on helping people's health both physically and mentally; that is why outdoor sport and being allowed to meet in small groups (up to six) outside have been prioritised ahead of reopening shops or pubs.

Surfers returned to The Wave in Bristol as lockdown measures eased. Credit: PA

Unlike the March 8 initial easing, everyone should be able to notice a change - as we don't have to have a good reason to leave our home and we can finally meet more than one other person to socialise.

As things stand, there is confidence the roadmap is on track and vaccination rollout targets are being met while infection rates remain low.

However, ministers are still urging caution and reminding us all we shouldn't be rushing things and that 'fresh air' is a vital part of this easing - basically don't go indoors with someone you don't live with.

Ministers have warned the public not to become complacent (pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock). Credit: PA

The message of 'fresh air' is being added to the old 'Hands Face Space' mantra of last summer.

So, we are still being urged to avoid hugging loved ones but are being encouraged to see them at a distance outside. 

The reason for the caution is central to Boris Johnson's plan as he doesn't want to have to put us back in a lockdown - and because infection rates have started to plateau across the South West.

Areas like South Gloucestershire and Swindon are plateauing slightly higher than health officials would like - there has even been a small increase in Bristol in the past week.

Reasons to be positive in the West Country

  • More than 64% per cent of adults in the region have had their first dose of a Covid jab which is more than 2.9 million people.

  • More than 300,000 people have had both doses of a covid jab in the South West, which is almost 7% of adults here

  • The number of daily covid hospital admissions is now in the low teens, compared to more than 200 a day two months ago

  • The number of people with the virus in intensive care is falling too, 14 this morning down from 199 two months ago

  • The average daily numbers of deaths reported by our hospitals is the lowest it has been since October, with two days this month where zero deaths have been reported.

The next big announcement will (hopefully) come from the Prime Minister on Easter Monday when he will announce if it is safe to go ahead with a major reopening of the economy on Monday 12 April.

The Prime Minister is expected to update the nation on his roadmap out of lockdown in April.

That is the date earmarked for all shops, hairdressers and self contained holiday homes to reopen along with pubs and restaurants outside.

As things stand, we are on track to meet that - but the warning is that if we aren't cautious this week with our new found freedom then we may not get more in a fortnight. 

While today is certainly a reason to be cheerful, scientists and ministers are keeping their eyes on any emerging variants of the virus and the surge in cases elsewhere in other parts of Europe, like France and Poland.

We need those to stay away to meet the next stages of the roadmap on time.

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