ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN: Common sense is key to success of lockdown easing

I hope by now you have familiarised yourself with the Government’s plan for easing the present “lockdown” restrictions.

Thursday, 21st May 2020, 12:00 am

The document sets out how we will continue to protect the most vulnerable whilst enabling the economy to re-boot. We must not overlook the fact that a strong economy also protects the vulnerable and enables us to fund our NHS. Balance is key, and the document sets out the cautious approach we are taking, with a detailed explanation of when and how decisions will be taken to ensure we all stay safe.

This situation is so tough for everyone. The freedoms we have taken for granted have been taken away in order to protect the health of the nation. We know it is tough, and that is why, based on scientific advice and the evidence we now have about how the virus transmits, we have been able to ease restrictions on exercising, to allow folk to get outdoors, where they can be safe and experience our wonderful countryside.

As well as receiving emails from people who believe we should be lifting restrictions faster, there are many who believe outdoor exercise poses a risk. That should not be the case, and I hope to be able to ease those fears. The Covid-19 virus spreads through droplets – from coughing, sneezing and talking. It thrives on people being close to one another in small, enclosed areas. That is why the Government is asking people to stay at least 2 metres away from others (more than the one metre advised by the World Health Organisation).

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As long as you are outdoors and are 2 metres from others, you are safe to enjoy our fantastic countryside. It is much safer to have everyone dispersed, exercising in large open spaces and beaches than crammed onto pavements and small parks.

The Government has issued further guidance on planning journeys, but you not being put at risk by people coming from half an hour away to walk on a beach outside, two metres or more away from you.

People are being advised to plan ahead, to check parks and beaches are open before travel, and if there is a numbers problem, local authorities can stagger arrival times, and ensure there is social distancing in car parks. Northumberland County Council is taking a cautious approach, and undertaking risk assessments for each location, to ensure everyone can stay safe.

My clear message is plan ahead – check you have your own food and provisions with you, so you do not need to visit a shop. Check your destination is open and bring hand sanitiser with you. Ensure you will be able to use public loos on arrival, and that they are open. If you arrive at your destination and it is busy, and you won’t be able to keep a 2 metre distance from others, go home and try again another day. Use your common sense to keep everyone safe.

The government is only allowing this because it has been deemed a safe thing to allow. If once these very small relaxation of measures are allowed, we find a sharp increase in the R rate, they will be tightened again.

This is a very low risk measure to allow more enjoyment for people in these tough times. As we look to how we might begin to ease the restrictions to enable us to return to a semblance of normality, we must continue to use our common sense.