Ben HaywardMay 10th
2020

The UK government has now advised that people should wear face coverings in crowded places to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Following the prime minister’s address to the nation on Sunday, the government has now published a 60-page document called Our Plan to Rebuild.

As of Wednesday (May 13th) more outdoor activities will be allowed, however the public are expected to take extra caution, including by wearing face coverings and washing clothes regularly.

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The document says: “[People should] wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.”

It is hoped this will help prevent people who have the virus - but are not experiencing symptoms - from transmitting it to others. 

However, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, stressed that face coverings were ‘not a substitute’ for physical distancing and urged the public not to buy surgical or medical masks, needed for frontline carers, but to use scarves or DIY-type masks instead.

As reported by The Guardian, the paper outlines the three-step ‘second phase’ of the government’s coronavirus plan.

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More people will be ‘encouraged’ to go back to work from this Wednesday and there is the potential that as of June 1st some schools and businesses, including non-essential shops, will be allowed to reopen, and some sporting and cultural events will be allowed to take place behind closed doors.This could potentially be followed by some remaining businesses, such as hairdressers, and social spaces such as cinemas and pubs, being permitted to reopen in July.

The report states: “The aim is to return life to as close as normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and as fairly as possible … in a way that avoids a new epidemic, minimises lives lost and maximises health, economic and social outcomes.”

As a result, employers are being urged to redesign workplaces to minimise the number of individuals people come into contact with and the government expects some childcare providers to reopen to allow parents to return to work. 

The document says ‘paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can take place as long as health guidelines such as avoiding crowds and washing hand are followed’ and schools could see more pupils returning as of June 1st.

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“Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes,” reads the document. “This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers. 

Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning.”

It adds: “The government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review.”

However, it is stated clearly that the precise timings will be ‘science’ not ‘date’ based, with the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, saying he and his colleagues had ‘strongly supported the conditionality’ of the government’s approach, and each step would have to be science-based, not ‘date-based’.

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