Devon prepares to enter coronavirus lockdown 3.0

Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a televised address to the nation from 10 Downing Street, London

Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a televised address to the nation from 10 Downing Street, setting out new emergency measures to control the spread of coronavirus in England. - Credit: PA

People in Devon have been urged to follow the rules as the country begins another coronavirus lockdown. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced lockdown 3.0 in a sobering address to the nation on Monday (January 4). 

In a bleak statement, Mr Johnson said the new variant of coronavirus, which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible, was spreading in a 'frustrating and alarming' manner and warned that the number of Covid-19 patients in English hospitals is 40 per cent higher than the first peak. 

In the toughest national measures since March 2020, people were told to stay at home and only to leave their house for essential reasons, such as shopping, working (if not possible to work from home), exercise, medical assistance, and to escape domestic abuse at home. 

Schools and colleges are now closed except for children who are vulnerable or whose parents are key workers. Primary schools had been due to return on Tuesday, January 5 and secondary schools on January 18. 

The six-week lockdown will be reviewed in mid-February.

Those identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable must begin shielding, and like last time, they will receive a letter from the government or their GP in coming days with further guidance. 

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It is thought measures are unlikely to be relaxed until around 13 million people aged over 70 or classed as extremely clinically vulnerable have received the vaccine and been given enough time to be protected - about two to three weeks after getting the jab. 

But Mr Johnson issued a series of ifs - on the public following the rules and understanding of the virus not dramatically shifting - before the nation can start 'cautiously' moving down through tiered restrictions with schools reopening after the February half-term. 

The lockdown is being enshrined in law and police can take action if people leave home without a reasonable excuse. 

The police can issue a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. 

Devon’s director of public health, Steve Brown, said the county had done well to avoid the sharp rise on positive Covid-19 cases that other areas were seeing, and numbers in the region remained relatively low – but he urged everyone to pull together and abide by the lockdown restrictions. 

He said: “The new strain of coronavirus is exceptionally good at spreading between people, which is why the government is imposing new national restrictions requiring everyone to stay at home as much as possible and to minimise their time with others, except those in their immediate household or bubble. 

“The vaccination programme, although now starting to be delivered to priority groups, will take a time to reach everyone. While its arrival and roll out is very positive news, we must not wait for it, nor rely on it alone. 

“Please, stay at home and only go out when you need to, and minimise your contact with other people. If you must be outside, please continue to follow social distancing rules, wear a face covering in public places, and wash your hands properly and regularly.” 

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby said it was the right thing to do, saying: “It is very disappointing that 2021 has to start with another national lockdown, but the situation with the new variant, and pressure on much of the NHS, unfortunately in my mind makes this a necessary step.   

“The guidance comes into effect immediately so non-essential retail and businesses such as hairdressers should close, it will become law on Wednesday. 

“The vaccination programme will rollout alongside this lockdown, which I hope will give us all hope that this will be the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.” 

But the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for North Devon, Alex White, was critical of Boris Johnson waiting until ‘the 11th hour’. 

He said: “My heart goes out to all those people across North Devon who have already made huge sacrifices. Many will share my anger that yet again the Prime Minster waited till the 11th hour to take the necessary action to control this virus. 
“I want to particularly speak of those who have contacted me in hospitality, events, beauty, childcare, all those self-employed and excluded, and more besides who feel they’ve been cast aside by the Government - I’ll continue to be a loud voice for you.
"The Tory MP for North Devon, as always, backed the PM's initial reckless decision to send kids back to school, but now shares his posts that we should lock down.  

“I know that keeping schools open was shameful, indeed the Liberal Democrats were clear on that, but what made the Conservative MP for North Devon change her mind in just 24 hours? What does she really think? 

"I extend my best wishes to people across North Devon and hope everyone stays safe.” 

For full lockdown details, go to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home.

Lockdown 3.30 - what it all means 

People can only leave the house for limited reasons - shopping for necessities such as food and medicine, but only as infrequently as possible. 

They can also do this if they are caring for somebody, are a volunteer, or to provide essentials for people who are self-isolating. 

Exercise will be allowed - preferably limited to once a day - with members of your household or support bubble or one other person from another household, such as if going for a walk or run. Exercise should be taken locally. 

People can leave home for medical reasons and other essential tasks such as being with someone who is giving birth, or to visit someone who is dying. 

People will be able to go to work if it is impossible to work from home, such as those in the construction sector or who are critical workers. All others must work from home. 

Cleaners and other trades people will still be able to work in people's homes. 

Regarding international travel, only essential journeys are permitted. 

Police will have enforcement powers. 

All primary and secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning, except for the children of keyworkers or vulnerable children. 

Early years settings such as nurseries and childminders can remain open, and existing childcare bubbles will be allowed to stay in place. 

University students will not be allowed to return to campus and will be expected to study from their current residence. 

Churches can stay open but weddings are only allowed in exceptional circumstances. 

Places of worship can remain open for individual prayers and communal worship, but people should only visit with their household or support bubble. 

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are allowed only in exceptional circumstances (such as where one partner is seriously ill) and with strict limits on attendance (up to six people). 

A maximum of 30 people can attend a funeral while wakes and other ceremonial events can continue in a group of up to six people. 

All non-essential shops, hairdressers and personal care salons must close. 

Supermarkets, pharmacies, off-licences, builders' merchants and garden centres can stay open, as can launderettes, car repair shops, car washes, banks, market stalls selling essentials and bike shops. 

Restaurants and other hospitality venues can continue with delivery or takeaway only, but people will not be able to add alcohol to any orders they collect. 

Entertainment venues such as cinemas, skating rinks and bowling alleys must remain closed. 

-Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and who were previously told to shield should stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise. 

They are advised not to go to work even if they cannot work from home. New shielding letters are to be sent to homes. 

The Government guidance says visits to care homes can take place only with "substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows". 

Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed and no visits will be permitted in the event of a Covid outbreak at a home. 

Playgrounds will remain open but gyms (indoor and outdoor), tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses must close, and outdoor team sports will not be permitted. 

Premier League and other elite sports that already have in place strict testing regimes and their own bubbles will be allowed to continue. 

The buying and selling of houses can still go ahead 

People must not stay away overnight without a reasonable excuse. Visits to second homes are banned. 

Holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed, including staying in a second home or caravan. 

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