North Devon MP 'disappointed' Covid restrictions not lifted sooner

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson - Credit: Annika Haas

North Devon’s MP has welcomed the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown – but has said the unlocking should be faster than it is in our area. 

Boris Johnson announced on Monday a series of steps in which he sets out the principles of transition out of lockdown and hopefully back to normality by June 21 at the earliest. 

From March 8, pupils and students in all schools and further education settings will return to face-to-face teaching, supported by twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils, and people will also be able to meet one person from outside their household for outdoor recreation, such as a coffee on a park bench, in addition to exercise. 

From March 29, the Rule of Six will return outdoors including in private gardens. Outdoor meetings of two households will also be permitted. 

Non-essential retail, hairdressers, indoor leisure facilities such as gyms, as well as holiday-lets for use by individuals or household groups, will reopen no earlier than April 12, and pubs and restaurants will be able to re-open from that date too for outdoor service. 

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Restrictions on meetings outdoors will be lifted, no earlier than May 17, subject to a limit of thirty people, and groups of no more than six people or two households will be able to meet indoors, and from that date, pubs and restaurants will open indoors, as will hotels, hostels and B&Bs. 

And from no earlier than June 21, all remaining restrictions could be lifted, including the reopening of nightclubs, full stadiums for sporting events, and the end to the requirement to work from home if you can. 

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Devon’s MPs have welcomed the roadmap out of lockdown, but have called for the relaxing of measures to be brought forward if the data allows, particularly given that Torridge, West Devon, South Hams and North Devon have the four lowest infection rates in England, and at upper tier level, Cornwall and Devon are the two lowest. 

Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said: “I am pleased that the Prime Minister has laid out a clear framework for emerging from lockdown, which will hopefully give businesses the information they need to plan for their reopening. 

“Given the very low level of cases in North Devon, I am somewhat disappointed that more is not happening sooner, at least locally. But believe this cautious approach will ensure that this really is the roadmap out of our final lockdown, for the whole country and will ensure we can safely welcome back our economy’s vital visitors within the timeframe laid out. 

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in North Devon for everything they have done to suppress the virus and ensure we are leading the way in keeping cases amongst the lowest in the country.” 

Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr John Hart, said that he is urging every resident in Devon to continue to abide by the rules and keep the county’s infection rates as low as they have been so far before the rules are relaxed. 

He said: “I know that many parents will be delighted that schools are to open up and we are working with heads and their staffs to ensure that is done as safely as possible across Devon. 

“For people who have endured this worst of lockdowns, the Prime Minister’s road map will provide some real hope along with the hugely successful vaccination programme. Families who haven’t seen each other for months will be able to get together, friends will be able to meet for a coffee or go for a walk. 

“I’m afraid that it looks as though our tourism and hospitality operators will miss Easter – the traditional start of the season – but at least they now have something to aim for and I know many have said when they open this time, they don’t want to have to close again. But hospitality and our other businesses, such as retail, which have been so hard hit by the pandemic will still need support and I look to the Budget next week to address this, including an extension of the furlough scheme.” 

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