The Government has announced this week further measures to ease the lockdown restrictions. These important steps can be made because of the collective action we have taken to restrict the spread of the virus. This has saved lives and enabled the NHS to cope with the demands placed on it by COVID-19. We have not seen here, as has been witnessed in other countries, people being denied treatment for the virus because of the lack of facilities to care for those in severe need.
The lockdown has imposed a great many restrictions on our movements and the ability of people to run their businesses. It has changed our working lives, and our contact with family members and close friends. Many people have suffered the tragedy of losing loved ones without being able to say goodbye. Yet we have endured this as part of a great collective national effort to defeat the coronavirus. Rather than acting on our instincts we have had to take precautions and followed the public guidance to stay at home, in some cases self-isolate, and to observe the social distancing measures. Much as I would normally encourage people to drive for half an hour, or longer, to enjoy our local beauty spots, this time I would like to thank those who have stayed away.
There are many people who have had to manage the pressures of childcare whilst coping with these restrictions or suffering from the virus. There are also many older residents who have not left their homes for many weeks. I would like to thank the community volunteers as well who have helped people who cannot leave their homes, by arranging for food or medicines to be delivered. Anyone who has needed help has been able to simply pick up the phone or send an email to one of our Community Hubs to get the assistance they need.
However, looking forward, from 1st June the Government intends a cautious, phased re-opening of nurseries and primary schools starting with the reception classes, Year 1 and Year 6, and then, from 15th June, ensuring secondary pupils with exams next year get some time with their teachers before their summer holidays. I know some of you will be concerned about the safety of these measures. However, for those schools who are confident that they can work within the new requirements, I think it is important that they do. I say that as well as the father of two children who have been able to continue at school over the recent weeks, because of my status as a key worker.
The Government has also announced its intention to allow outdoor markets and car showrooms to open from 1st June as the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. All other non-essential retail businesses will be expected to be able to reopen from 15th June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines. It is hoped that businesses in the hospitality sector will begin to re-open in July. This is particularly important to our local economy and I am meeting with the Tourism Minister this week to discuss the role of ongoing government support for this sector.