Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 14/05/20

Solihull Mail

Over the past few weeks, Britain has risen to the challenge of Covid-19 to an extent which has taken international observers by surprise.

Rather than kicking against the rules, the overwhelming majority of us recognised the urgent need to prevent the NHS getting overwhelmed and entered lockdown with good grace and good humour.

Since then we have not only seen strong ongoing support for the measures, but hundreds of thousands of people going the extra mile to support their friends, neighbours, and community through these difficult weeks.

However, it has always been clear that this sort of total lockdown could not be sustained forever. Not only is the extraordinary package of support unveiled by the Treasury extremely expensive, but the suspension of normal life is taking a growing toll on our health and happiness too.

With a vaccine or treatment possibly a year away – and with our capacity to test and treat greatly expanded – it is time to start finding a more sustainable balance between safety and freedom.

On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister set out how the Government is going to do this. Ministers will use Covid-19’s reproductive rate (‘R rate’) and the number of cases to work out whether the rules need to tighten or can be relaxed. This plan has been set out in full in the 50-page ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, which can be easily found online.

It’s a long-term strategy. There is no avoiding the fact that some more high-risk businesses and locations, including secondary schools, bars, and nightclubs, may not be able to open for some months yet.

But there is good news. As of Wednesday, we are now free to take unlimited outdoor exercise, and to relax outside in the sun. A range of outdoor activities and sports including tennis and golf will be permitted, and you can play things like football with members of your household.

Even more welcome, you can also meet up outdoors with a member of another household, as long as you both maintain social distancing – a welcome chance to meet friends and loved ones.

I know that this is still a long way from normal life. But it’s a big step in the right direction.