I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that after a long and challenging period, we finally have a clear path back to our day-to-day lives.
This will be a gradual reopening via a four-stage process, beginning with the reopening of schools and the easing of some socialising restrictions on 8 March, and the return of the rule of 6 outdoors and outdoor sport on 29 March.
The second stage will see the return of indoor leisure, outdoor attractions, hairdressers, outdoor hospitality and all retail, no earlier than 12 April.
Indoor entertainment, household mixing, and indoor hospitality will be allowed in stage 3, no earlier than 17 May, and the final stage will see all limits on social contact and the reopening of larger events and nightclubs, no earlier than 21 June.
There will be a minimum of five weeks between each of these stages and four tests which must be satisfied before we can progress. These are: the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully; evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated; infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
This has been made possible by our world-leading vaccination programme, which has gone out better than any of us could have dared to hope, with over 17 million doses administered so far. We are in the global leading pack in our vaccination programme and can now look to reopen and reboot our economy months ahead of many other countries. The combination of this medical miracle and the diligence and resolve of the British people makes the gradual return to our day-to-day lives a reality.
It is essential that children can continue their education as soon as possible and I welcome the excellent news that all children can return to school on 8 March. I am in touch with headteachers across our area and will continue to support them as they make plans to re-open schools.
The Prime Minister made it clear that the Government will continue to support businesses and livelihoods during the reopening. I have worked hard throughout the pandemic to ensure that individuals and businesses here in Dover and Deal have had access to the necessary support and I will continue to support them as we move through the four stages.
The pandemic is by no means over, and it is important to strike a careful balance as we reopen the country, but there is so much to look forward to over the coming months. Reuniting with friends and family members, reopening the economy, and coming together for a better summer is all now within reach.
I will continue to press for the support our community needs to flourish as the restrictions are lifted over the coming months.