Beaches are packed, pupils are slowly heading back to school, more and more shops are opening; all of these surely show that lockdown is over, right?
Since 1st June, the UK government has been loosening some of the lockdown rules. From that date, children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 could return to school in England, in smaller class groups in order to maintain social distancing. Also, outdoor food markets and car showrooms could reopen, providing that social distancing measures can be implemented and followed.
The big change in this announcement was that people in England can meet in groups of up to 6 people from different households in public outdoor areas or in private gardens. Social distancing must continue during these meet ups. Unless, you are a single adult or a single parent with children under the age of 18, who can form a ‘bubble’ with one other household, from Saturday 13th June. This means visits to and overnight stays in the other household in the ‘bubble’ can happen, without social distancing.
But these small steps are edging us closer to normality, with even more restrictions being loosened from 15th June. From this date, non-essential shops can reopen and Year 10s and 12s can return to school, to ensure they have some face-to-face contact with their teachers before they start their respective exam years in September.
Officially, we are still under (a now much less strict) lockdown, with the government advising that we should stay at home where possible, and to stay alert, if we need to go out.
However, some images that have been circulating on the news or social media suggest that lockdown is in fact over. Beaches are packed, with some places reporting they are over four times capacity or there are more people there than on a normal sunny Bank Holiday weekend (which in the UK is a rare situation!). The public are seizing their opportunity to go out and feel any sense of normality that we can get, after a difficult couple of months at home.
But, in reality, this sense of normality that is starting to come back is a very loose representation of what normality was like before the lockdown. We still can’t hug others from outside our households, let alone visit the houses of or stay overnight with loved ones, who we haven’t seen in months, unless you are a single adult able to create a ‘bubble’ (but this is still with only one other household, which means having the impossible task of choosing between family members or friends). Until the regulations are changed and these actions are freely allowed, it doesn’t feel like the lockdown has been lifted or that normality has actually resumed.
Tides are starting to change, but they must be changed with caution. These freedoms show a moving forward, but we must not abuse this loosening of restrictions and lose the chances for some freedom.
Photo by Linus Nylund