When will lockdown end in Sheffield and how? Boris Johnson to set out ‘route map’ for schools, shops and pubs reopening
Sheffield remains under national lockdown measures, with a date when restrictions will be relaxed yet to be confirmed.
The Government has promised to announce a ‘route map’ out of lockdown on February 22, with the hope that schools can fully reopen from March 8.
But, despite the number of people being vaccinated against Covid across the UK passing 10 million this week, it remains unclear exactly when or how restrictions will be eased.
The Government is still waiting for more evidence about how widespread vaccinations affect the spread of coronavirus and in particular hospitalisatons and deaths, though the early signs are promising.
Boris Johnson has said the country would be in a ‘very different situation’ to last summer when the first lockdown was lifted as although infection rates had reduced then there was no vaccine.
“This time as we go into the second half of the year we are going to have the confidence of knowing a huge proportion of the British public – particularly the most vulnerable – will have been vaccinated and probably have received a very high degree of immunity,” he said.
“That will very much change our approach to the autumn and the winter – highly infectious respiratory diseases don’t go away all together, at least not easily.”
The Prime Minister has not ruled out a return to the tier system but said a national approach ‘might be better this time round, given that the disease is behaving much more nationally’.
Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of public health, says he expects a return to Tier 3 restrictions in Sheffield when the national lockdown is eased.
Sheffield’s latest weekly infection rate is 220.2 cases per 100,000 people, which remains below the national average but Mr Fell says is still ‘far too high for comfort’.
Under Tier 3 restrictions, household mixing would remain banned in many places but groups of up to six people from different households would be allowed to get together in parks and other outdoor spaces.
Bars and restaurants would have to stay shut but gyms and non-essential shops could reopen and outdoor team sports could resume.
Mr Fell expects the current restrictions to remain in place for another six weeks to two months.
The March 8 date for pupils to return to schools has been chosen as it is three weeks after February 15 when the Government expects everyone in the four most vulnerable priority groups – including over 70s, care home residents and carers, and frontline health and social care workers – to have received at least one dose of vaccine and had time to develop significant immunity.
Early data about the Covid jabs is largely promising, with one study showing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 82.4 per cent effective and crucially appears to cut transmission rates by 67 per cent.
Initial results also suggest vaccines remain effective against the new variants, though they may not produce such a strong or lasting immune response.
Zak McMurray, medical director of Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group, told councillors this week that around 90,000 people across the city had been vaccinated.
Public Health England’s coronavirus strategy chief Dr Susan Hopkins said at the weekend that measures must be eased ‘very cautiously’ so ‘we can clamp down quite fast’ if an increase of cases is seen.