Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coronavirus diary, day 96

My wife, who works for the NHS, had her antibody test results back today, and she has not had Coronavirus.

No vast surprise as none of the family have had any symptoms, but one of the many hugely problematic aspects of this wretched bug is that some people get it and can pass it on without getting any symptoms.

The single most important lesson to come out of this pandemic so far is that we need to be ready in future to organise large scale testing for any disease, including new ones, and to ramp it up quickly.

Keep well


Delivering the homes people need

The government has announced the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War, making it easier to build better homes where people want to live. 

New regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in our town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings.   

  • Kick-starting the construction industry and speed up rebuilding. New rules will mean existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, can be converted into residential housing more easily.
  • Work will begin to look at how land owned by the government can be managed more effectively through a new ambitious cross-government strategy to look at how public sector land can be put to better use including new homes, contributing to net zero goals and injecting growth opportunities into communities across the country.
  • Confirming a £12 billion affordable homes programme that will support up to 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next 8 years.
  • A pilot of 1,500-unit ‘First Homes’ that will be sold to local first time buyers at a 30 per cent discount. These will remain in perpetuity, keeping them affordable for generations of families to own.  
  • Allocating funds from the £400 million Brownfield Land Fund. Today we have confirmed the allocation of funds to the West Midland, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, North of Tyne and Tees Valley to support around 24,000 homes.
  • Expanding the Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers access finance for new housing. Developments will receive additional £450 million boost. This is expected to support delivery of around 7,200 new homes.
  • Launching a planning Policy Paper in July setting out our plan for comprehensive reform of England’s seven-decade old planning system to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society.
  • Bringing forward a Local Recovery White Paper later this year to support our recovery. We will detail how the UK government will work with communities across the county to build a sustainable economic recovery.

A New Deal

Today in a speech in the West Midlands the Prime Minister announced a ‘New Deal’, an ambitious economic strategy which will put jobs, skills and infrastructure investment at the heart of our economic recovery post-coronavirus, and deliver on our manifesto pledges to level up the entire country. 

  • The government is committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades: to build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, and to unite and level up.
  • Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis. Not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and level up – the mission on which we were elected last year.
  • If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health. We will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before.

EU Trade negotiations

The pandemic has rather pushed Brexit off the front pages, but the need to have a solid trading relationship with our former EU partners has not gone away.

Negotiating this is very important to both sides, and the damage caused to every country in Europe by the Coronavirus pandemic makes this all the more true.

The UK and EU negotiating teams met face to face in Brussels at the weekend, with both sides having agreed to intensify talks on securing a new trade agreement before the end of 2020.

  • The Conservatives delivered on our promise to leave the European Union on 31 January and have been clear that we will not request an extension to the transition period ending on 31 December. 
  • Following recent discussions between the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament, the next round of negotiations began on Sunday in Brussels, marking the start of the intensified process agreed by both sides. 
  • We are looking to agree a high-quality Free Trade Agreement based on the agreements the EU has already reached with other countries. Whatever happens, we will be ready for 1 January, when we will take back control of our laws, borders and money.

Rebuilding our schools and our economy

This week the Prime Minister has announced over £1 billion to kickstart a 10 year school rebuilding programme, including substantial investment in the North and Midlands, as part of our plan to level up and spread opportunity across the country as we recover from coronavirus. 
  • All children deserve the best possible start in life – regardless of their background or where they live.
  • That is why we are beginning a transformative 10-year rebuilding programme with over £1 billion for the first 50 projects in 2020-21. Schools and colleges will also receive funding this year to refurbish buildings and continue raising standards across the country.
  • As we bounce back from the pandemic, it’s important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, with our younger generations front and centre of this mission.  

Quote of the day 30th June 2020

I thought to myself when about to post this, "Did Lord Acton really say or write this?"

My source which says that he did, with a lot of other quotes, is here (at the top of the bottom box of quotes.)

Monday, June 29, 2020

Coronavirus diary, day 95

What a miserable few days it has been.

Up to last weekend when we had a magnificent summer there were fears, sometimes realised as in Bournemouth, that the marvellous weather would encourage people to go out and foret social distancing.

Not too much risk of that over the last three days.

The summer garden furniture which I put out while we were having all the glorious sunshine has now been quite literally blown all over the garden and I've had to take some of it in again.

Oh well. Nobody who can't cope with a bit of wind and rain (or indeed, a lot of wind and rain!) has any business making their home in Cumbria.

Keep well

Quote of the day 29th June 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Coronavirus diary, day 94

Interesting to see that this morning's broadcast from St James' church described today as "The last Sunday of lockdown."

I changed the name of this series of posts from "Lockdown diary" to "Coronavirus diary" some time ago to forestall an argument about precisely this point.

I understand exactly what the Revd. Robert Jackson was getting at and I am not criticising him. Certainly next Saturday looks likely to see an easing of restrictions which could not unreasonably be described as the end of lockdown - the Whitehaven News is calling it "Independence day."

But it is the end of one national lockdown. The virus is still out there. Even if we are very lucky I think we're going to see some more local or regional ones.

The government is right to try to avoid a second wave, because even if that cannot be achieved the effort is still likely to make any second wave that we do get less severe than it would otherwise be.

We need to be more careful now than ever to respect the social distancing rules which remain in force, to wash our hands, wear masks where this is advised, not get within a metre of people and treat two metres as a guideline where this is possible.

Keep well.

Sunday music spot: Stainer's "I Saw the Lord."

Family courts

This week the government has announced a major overhaul of family courts, helping to keep domestic abuse victims and their children safe as they go through this difficult process.

  • Every day family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society, and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger during this process.
  • That is why the government is reforming the way family courts handle domestic abuse cases – including giving victims special protections in court, and empowering judges to prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court.
  • Alongside the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, these changes will transform society’s response to this destructive crime – protecting victims and pursuing perpetrators more than ever before.

Today's Sunday Service from St James' Church Whitehaven

Quote of the day 28th June 2020

"Our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end."

(PM Boris Johnson in the House of Commons this week.)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Coronavirus dairy, day 93

Well, we're now getting close to what the Whitehaven news called "Independence day" when a lot of things we have been unable to do like go to the hairdresser may, we hope become possible,

On Thursday the government introduced a new Business and Planning Bill which will allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve customers outside, helping businesses get back on their feet and getting people back into their jobs safely.
A briefing I received about this says that quote, 

  • "Because of the enormous sacrifices of the British people over the past few months, we have been able to control the coronavirus and can now continue our phased, cautious reopening of our economy for the summer months ahead .
  • "To help boost this recovery, we are introducing a new Business and Planning Bill that will simplify licensing processes and cut red tape for thousands of pubs, restaurants and cafes – introducing al fresco dining to the country by allowing them to serve customers outside and increasing outdoor street trading and outdoor markets.
  • "This will transform the way people shop and socialise, giving an immediate and much-needed boost to many businesses."

I think we need to relax the lockdown as the evidence does appear to suggest that transmission of the virus has greatly dropped, and the lockdown itself is having negative effects on people's mental health and wellbeing, but we must remember that the virus is still out there. 

I sense this is one of the most dangerous times - we do need to try to get the economy back as close to normal as possible but we still need to minimise unnecessary contact and avoidable risk of transmitting the disease. 

Keep well

Saturday music spot: Gluck's "Dance of the Furies"

Support for R&D to tackle COIVID-19

The Business Secretary has announced £400 million to support major research and development projects across the UK, creating thousands of jobs and supporting our economic recovery from coronavirus. 

  • The UK has long been a world leader in developing ground-breaking technology, and we are determined to enhance that position as we begin to kickstart our economy following the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Seven major research and development projects, including in Cardiff, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Bristol, will receive a share of £400 million of Government and industry funding. The money will support projects such as zero-emission tech for maritime vessels, smart packaging to cut food waste and new health products to combat infections.
  • By working with the private sector and our world-class universities, we are backing new ideas that will create jobs and boost skills in every part of the UK for years to come.

Quote of the day 27th June 2020

I thought of this quote which is often attributed to Winston Churchill this week, when I was asked to write a letter which could easily be seen as a rebuke but do it "diplomatically."

 “Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.”

This is one of a couple of versions of the quote often attributed to Sir Winston, but I gather there is no evidence that he actually said it.

The Quote Investigator website suggests that travel writer and humorist Caskie Stinnett is most likely to have originated it, in the following verified form:

"A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip."

Friday, June 26, 2020

6000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses

The latest figures show that the numbers of doctors and nurses have reached record highs in the NHS in England, delivering on the Conservative election promise to get more staff on the frontline to deliver world-class care for patients.

  • During the election, we promised the British people that action would be taken to raise the number of nurses by 50,000 compared with what it would otherwise have been by the end of the new Parliament. (30,000 through increased recruitment and 20,000 through improved retention, making the job of nursing more attractive and less stressful so that fewer nurses leave.) These figures show that these were not just words but positive steps are being taken to deliver on that promise.
  • The latest figures show the progress we’re making towards that goal – in March there were 6,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses compared to last year, and that is NOT including former healthcare professionals who have selflessly volunteered to return to the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • We’ve seen the best of the NHS over recent months, and we will continue to do everything we can to attract and retain brilliant NHS staff over the years to come.

Testing, testing ...

The Health Secretary has urged anyone with coronavirus symptoms to get tested, as we expand testing services to include new walk-through testing sites, so that NHS Test and Trace can continue to control the virus and save lives.
  • Free and accessible testing is a cornerstone of NHS Test and Trace, which is working to control the spread of coronavirus and get life back to some sense of normality.
  • We are increasing access to coronavirus testing with six new walk-through testing sites for people in England who do not have a car and who cannot visit the existing drive-through sites. The number of mobile testing units will also double to 236 by the end of July, and new priority postboxes, for returning home testing kits, will be created.
  • As the virus is brought increasingly under control, anyone with coronavirus symptoms must get a test. We all have a part to play in helping to control the virus – and we will make it as convenient as possible for people to do so.

Quote of the day 26th June 2020

"I come back to the idea of transparency of scientific advice - widen the gene pool of scientists giving advice to ministers. 

"What I think we need to do is de-politicise the process of scientific advice and also educate the public that sometimes scientists disagree. 

"Just as economists giving advice on interest rates regularly disagree. 

"We need to avoid the groupthink that clearly existed - we need to find ways to challenge the groupthink that meant we thought we were all fine because we prepared for a pandemic flu, when actually we needed to be thinking about pandemic SARS. 

"That's the kind of structural change which we urgently need to address."

"With the benefit of hindsight, for sure, we would have done lots of things differently... 

"And these aren't just mistakes that were made here, they were made by governments all over the world."

(Former Health secretary Jeremy Hunt on learning the lessons of the pandemic.)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Coronavirus diary, day 91

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has issued a stark warning that coronavirus cases "will rise again" if people do not follow social distancing guidance.

The warning follows a major incident being declared at Bournemouth's beaches as thousands of visitors flocked to the south coast to enjoy the hot weather.

In a post on Twitter, Professor Whitty wrote:

"COVID-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation. 

"If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all." 

Health secretary Matt Hancock added:

"We all want to be outside and enjoying the glorious sunshine but if you are heading out please do it safely and stick to social distancing rules."

Keep well

Rebecca Long Bailey sacked for sharing Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory article.

Former Labour leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Baily has been sacked by the leader of the Labour party from the shadow cabinet for sharing an interview on social media which in the words of a spokesperson for the Labour leader

"contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory."

To be precise, in the interview the actress Maxine Peake managed to blame Israel for the death of George Floyd, claiming that the US police officers responsible for his death had learned their tactics from the Israeli secret services.

Dear oh dear.

No  party is completely free of prejudice and all parties need to be vigilant against this sort of nonsense, whether it is directed at Jewish people or anyone else. I am pleased to see that message is starting to get through, with strong and immediate action taken in the past two weeks by more than one party in cases of unacceptable comments..

Quote of the day 25th June 2020

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Decision on West Cumbria Mining application deferred

I am advised by the Cumbria County Council planning department that because of a very high level of response - the word used was "unprecedented" - the latest West Cumbria mining proposals will not now be considered on 8th July and will come to committee on a later date, yet to be determined.

Support for Rough Sleepers

Today, the government has announced £105 million to continue support for rough sleepers and those housed in emergency accommodation during the pandemic – taking total spending on rough sleeping and homelessness this year to over half a billion pounds – an unprecedented commitment as we move towards ending rough sleeping for good.

  • Since the start of the pandemic, 15,000 vulnerable people have been taken off the streets and prevented from becoming homeless during the pandemic, which has been a vital step to ensure their safety and has changed the lives of thousands for the better. 
  • This extra £105 million will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness with the next steps - including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use. This builds on our recent announcement to provide 6,000 long-term, safe homes – ensuring the work being done to take society’s most vulnerable off the streets during the pandemic has a lasting impact. 
  • Together, this takes the funding provided by Government for vulnerable rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless to over half a billion this year, meaning we can move towards ending rough sleeping for good and unlock new opportunities to improve their lives for the better.

Quote of the day 24th June 2020

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A summary of government action to deal with the pandemic

Action taken by the UK government to help Britain through the COVID-19 pandemic includes:

Protecting the NHS so that it is there for people when they need it

  • From just 2,000 tests per day in March Britain now haa the capacity to conduct over 200,000 tests per day – with 139,659 tests on 21 June.
  • Daily cases down from a peak of 5,195 on 14 April to 1,205 on 22 June 2020 (seven day rolling average)
  • Daily deaths down from a peak of 943 on 14 April to 130 on 22 June 2020 (seven day rolling average)
  • Ventilators up from 9,000 in March 2020 to 21,200 on 22 June 2020.
  • Number of ventilator beds occupied down from a peak of 3,301 on 12 April 2020 to 330 on 19 June 2020.
  • Over 1.94 billion items of PPE delivered since the start of the outbreak.
  • 6 Nightingale hospitals created with a 7th due to open in Exeter this month.
  • Hospital admissions down from 3,432 on 1 April 2020 to 380 on 19 June 2020 (England, Wales and NI).
  • Over 1.3 million testing kits delivered to almost 9000 care homes.  
  • 99 per cent of GPs able to offer video consultations – up from 3 per cent before the crisis.

Unprecedented action to support jobs and livelihoods with over £104 billion of support

  • Jobs retention scheme has been used by over 1 million employers to protect 9.1 million people’s jobs at a value of £20.8 billion
  • Self-employed income support scheme has been used by over 2.6 million to the value of £7.6 billion.
  • The safety net is working – with an extra 2.3 million people getting the help they need through Universal Credit (since 12 March)
  • Over 49,200 loans have now gone out through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for SMEs providing £10.11 billion worth of finance.
  • 279 loans have been approved for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme for large firms providing £1.77 billion worth of financing.
  • Over 860,000 Bounce Back Loans have been approved worth over £26.3 billion.
  • Over 844,000 firms have benefitted from over £10.3 billion of business grants through the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.
  • Around 350,000 properties will pay no business rates in 2020-21 – saving them almost £10 billion because of business rate relief.
  • Over 250,000 VAT payments deferred by businesses to the value of £17.3 billion.

Supporting those who need it most

  • Around 660,000 children are attending an educational setting – including 284,000 children of critical workers.
  • £164 million worth of free school meal vouchers have been redeemed.
  • Over 3 million food boxes have been distributed to those who are shielded.
  • 15,000 people have been housed in emergency accommodation.  
  • Almost 590,000 NHS Volunteer Responders have had their ID verified and can now receive tasks.
  • More than 348,000 tasks have been completed by NHS Volunteers.
  • Helped to repatriate 38,000 people by charter and 1.3 million via commercial routes.
  • Contributed £1.65 billion to GAVI, the vaccine alliance.
  • 2 of the world’s leading coronavirus vaccine programmes.
  • The first country in the world to have a successful clinical trial.
  • Contributing £764 million to the international effort to fight coronavirus.

The Prime Minister's update on Covid 19

The Prime Minister has set out further changes to lockdown measures in England to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs.

  • From the outset we have trusted the common sense and perseverance of the British people and thanks to them we are continuing to meet the five tests, and the Chief Medical Officers have downgraded the UK’s Covid Alert Level from four to three.
  • That is why we can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs. At every stage, caution will remain our watchword, and each step will be conditional and reversible.
  • Everyone must keep washing hands, staying 2 metres apart wherever feasible, and mitigating the risks at 1 metre where not, avoiding public transport when possible, and wearing a mask when not, getting tested immediately if we have symptoms, and self-isolating if instructed by NHS Test and Trace. Guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers will be published later today.
  • Everyone must continue to stay alert, control the virus and save lives.
Making further changes to lockdown...

Prime Minister has set out that from Saturday 4 July:
  • Pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines.
  • Two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures and people can now enjoy staycations in England with the reopening of accommodation sites.
  • Some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen in order to begin restoring the arts and cultural sector, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
  • Following a review, the Prime Minister set out that where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission.
Keeping the virus under control...
  • As we begin to reopen the economy, it’s important that we do not increase the risk of transmission which is why 'close proximity' venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will need to remain closed for now. The Government is continuing to work with these sectors to establish taskforces to help them to become COVID Secure and reopen as soon as possible.
  • While the infection rate continues to fall, the Prime Minister has been clear that the public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines to keep coronavirus under control. The Government will keep all measures under constant review and will not hesitate to apply the handbrake, or reverse measures, should the virus begin to run out of control. 
The Prime Minister's Statement in the House of Commons ...
Mr Speaker, before I begin, I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to the families and friends of James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails, who were brutally killed in Reading on Saturday. To assault defenceless people in a park is not simply an act of wickedness but abject cowardice, and we will never yield to those who would seek to destroy our way of life.

Mr Speaker, with permission I will update the House on the next steps in our plan to rebuild our economy and reopen our society, while waging our struggle against Covid-19.

From the outset, we have trusted in the common sense and perseverance of the British people and their response has more than justified our faith.

Since I set out our plan on the 11th May, we have been clear that our cautious relaxation of the guidance is entirely conditional on our continued defeat of the virus.

In the first half of May, nearly 69,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 across the UK; by the first half of June, that total had fallen by nearly 70 percent to just under 22,000. The number of new infections is now declining by between 2 and 4 percent every day. Four weeks ago, an average of 1 in 400 people in the community in England had COVID-19; in the first half of June, this figure was 1 in 1,700.

We created a human shield around the NHS and in turn our doctors and nurses have protected us, and together we have saved our hospitals from being overwhelmed.

On the 11th May, 1,073 people were admitted to hospital in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with Covid-19, by 20th June, this had fallen by 74 per cent to 283.

This pandemic has inflicted permanent scars and we mourn everyone we have lost.

Measured by a seven-day rolling average, the number of daily deaths peaked at 943 on the 14th April, on 11th May it was 476, and yesterday, the rolling average stood at 130.

We have ordered over 2.2 billion items of protective equipment from UK based manufacturers, many of whose production lines have been called into being to serve this new demand - and yesterday, we conducted or posted 139,659 tests, bringing the total to over 8 million.

And while we remain vigilant, we do not believe there is currently a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS.

Taking everything together, we continue to meet our five tests and the Chief Medical Officers of all four home nations have downgraded the UK’s Covid Alert Level from four to three, meaning that we no longer face a virus spreading exponentially, though it remains in general circulation.

The administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland hold responsibility for their own lockdown restrictions and they will respond to the united view of the Chief Medical Officers at their own pace, based on their own judgment, but all parts of the UK are now travelling in the same direction and we will continue to work together to ensure that everyone in our country gets the support they need.

Thanks to our progress, we can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England.

At every stage, caution will remain our watchword, and each step will be conditional and reversible.

Mr Speaker, given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus, we can change the two-metre social distancing rule, from 4th July.

I know this rule effectively makes life impossible for large parts of our economy, even without other restrictions. For example, it prevents all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating. So that is why almost two weeks ago, I asked our experts to conduct a review and I will place a summary of their conclusions in the libraries of both Houses this week.

Where it is possible to keep 2 metres apart people should.

But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’, meaning they should remain one metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission.

We are today publishing guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers. These include, for instance, avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand sanitiser and changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams. And of course, we already mandate face coverings on public transport.

Whilst the experts cannot give a precise assessment of how much the risk is reduced, they judge these mitigations would make '1 metre plus' broadly equivalent to the risk at 2 metres if those mitigations are fully implemented. Either will be acceptable and our guidance will change accordingly.

This vital change enables the next stage of our plan to ease the lockdown.

Mr Speaker, I am acutely conscious people will ask legitimate questions about why certain activities are allowed and others are not. I must ask the House to understand that the virus has no interest in these debates. Its only interest, its only ambition is to exploit any opportunities is to recapture ground that we might carelessly vacate.

There is one certainty: the fewer social contacts you have, the safer you will be.

My duty, our duty as the Government, is to guide the British people, balancing our overriding aim of controlling the virus against our natural desire to bring back normal life.

We cannot lift all the restrictions at once, so we have to make difficult judgments, and every step is scrupulously weighed against the evidence.

Our principle is to trust the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks, remembering that the more we open up, the more vigilant we will need to be.

From now on we will ask people to follow guidance on social contact instead of legislation.

In that spirit we advise that from 4 July, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting inside or out.

That does not mean they must always be the same two households. It will be possible for instance to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, and the others the following weekend. We are not recommending meetings of multiple households indoors because of the risk of creating greater chains of transmission.

Outside, the guidance remains that people from several households can meet in groups of up to six, and it follows that two households can also meet, regardless of size.

Mr Speaker, I can tell the House that we will also re-open restaurants and pubs. All hospitality indoors will be limited to table-service, and our guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact.

We will ask businesses to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers, as happens in other countries, and we will work with the sector to make this manageable.

Almost as eagerly awaited as a pint will be a haircut, particularly by me, and so we will re-open hairdressers, with appropriate precautions, including the use of visors.

We also intend to allow some other close contact services, such as nail bars, to re-open as soon as we can, when we are confident they can operate in a Covid-secure way.

From 4th July, provided that no more than two households stay together, people will be free to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, including hotels and bed & breakfasts, as well as campsites as long as shared facilities are kept clean.

Most leisure facilities and tourist attractions will reopen if they can do so safely, including outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades as well as libraries, social clubs and community centres.

'Close proximity' venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas will need to remain closed for now, as will bowling alleys and water parks. But my RHFs the Business and Culture Secretaries will establish taskforces with public health experts and these sectors to help them become Covid-secure and re-open as soon as possible.

We will also work with the arts industry on specific guidance to enable choirs, orchestras and theatres to resume live performances as soon as possible.

Recreation and sport will be allowed, but indoor facilities, including changing rooms and courts, will remain closed and people should only play close contact team sports with members of their household.

Mr Speaker, I know that many have mourned the closure of places of worship, and this year, Easter, Passover and Eid all occurred during the lockdown.

So I am delighted that places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services – including weddings with a maximum of 30 people, all subject to social distancing.

Meanwhile, our courts, probation services, police stations and other public services will increasingly resume face-to-face proceedings.

Wrap-around care for school age children and formal childcare will restart over the summer.

Primary and secondary education will recommence in September with full attendance and those children who can already go to school should do so – because it is safe.

Mr Speaker, we will publish Covid-secure guidelines for every sector that is re-opening, and slowly but surely, these measures will restore a sense of normality.

After the toughest restrictions in peacetime history, we are now able to make life easier for people to see more of their friends and families and to help businesses get back on their feet and get people back into work.

But the virus has not gone away.

We will continue to monitor the data with the Joint Biosecurity Centre and our ever more effective Test and Trace system.

And I must be clear to the House, that as we have seen in other countries, there will be flare-ups for which local measures will be needed and we will not hesitate to apply the brakes and re-introduce restrictions even at national level - if required.

So I urge everyone to stay alert, control the virus and save lives.

Let’s keep washing our hands, staying 2 metres apart wherever feasible, and mitigating the risks at 1 metre where not, avoiding public transport when possible, and wearing a mask when not, getting tested immediately if we have symptoms, and self-isolating if instructed by NHS Test and Trace.

Today, we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our shops, streets and homes and a new, but cautious, optimism is palpable.

But it would be all too easy for that frost to return.

And that is why we will continue to trust in the common sense and the community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance, to carry us through and see us to victory over this virus.

I commend, Mr Speaker, this Statement to the House.