Lockdown exit roadmap – Julian calls for faster relaxation if vaccination progress accelerates and earlier opening for safe indoor hospitality
February 22, 2021
I welcome the clarity the overall exit plan brings for York households and businesses, in particular the emphasis that the successful vaccination programme allows for progress out of lockdown to be irreversible, with summer hopefully seeing a return to freedom.
In particular, I am reassured a firm commitment has now been made to open all schools on 8th March, following a call from myself at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this month to ensure the education of our children was the first priority for reopening.
However, given the very positive news that everyone aged 50-plus will now be offered a vaccine as soon as 15th April, safeguarding against the virus virtually all those likely to suffer serious ill health or danger if they catch it, in the House of Commons statement this afternoon I pressed Boris Johnson on whether if vaccination progressed more rapidly than expected, we could therefore relax restrictions faster to reflect this.
I understand the Prime Minister’s response that intervals between relaxations are needed to assess their effect on the virus, and that the exit plan is already brisk compared to other countries, but feel that the world-leading speed of our vaccine rollout should mean we keep an open mind on whether accelerating protection of the vulnerable could make it safe to free people sooner.
Bearing in mind York’s very large hospitality and tourism sector, although I am glad that outdoor hospitality can restart from 12th April, and welcome the removal of the ‘substantial meal’ with alcohol and curfew requirements, I have significant concerns that this does not extend to local premises without outdoor facilities, but which are nevertheless safe and covid-secure. I know York’s indoor hospitality business spent a lot of time and money on becoming safe for their customers, and I will be surveying affected local enterprises, who may not be able to survive until the summer under prolonged restrictions.
Overall, I think we have to remember that as well as sending our children back to school, we also have to ensure there will be jobs and an economy left for them to enter. It is because I agree with the Prime Minister that unlocking should be driven by ‘data not dates’ that I will keep watch to ensure we seize the opportunity vaccination gives us to secure the livelihoods of younger generations, of course in a safe, evidence-led manner.