Northamptonshire public health boss: 'Today is First step on a long road to a more normal way of life'
'I urge residents to continue to work with us in order that we may return to normal ways sooner rather than later'
Today marks the first step on a long road to normality but there is work still to do, Northamptonshire's public health boss has said.
All students can now go back to school and people can meet up with one other person in public outdoors as part of 'step one' of the government's 'roadmap' out of lockdown.
Northamptonshire County Council director of public health Lucy Wightman said: “Today marks the first step on a long road to a more normal way of life.
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"We have achieved so much in bringing down case rates locally and continued public compliance with the relaxing of the rules is essential in enabling us to follow the timeline set out by the government.
"Therefore, I urge the residents of Northamptonshire to continue to work with us in order that we may return to normal ways sooner rather than later."
Schools, colleges and and some universities across the country have welcomed all students back today.
Just those considered vulnerable and with key worker parents have been going into schools since January 4, during the third national lockdown, with the rest learning virtually.
Staff and secondary school pupils will be tested for Covid-19 regularly in preparation for, and following, their return.
Testing is also available for families and childcare bubbles of those returning to school, which will help reduce the risk of cases going undetected.
Ms Wightman said: “I know that the return to education for our children is welcomed by many parents, students and teachers alike.
"I’d like to thank parents for their hard work in balancing the demands of home schooling and working from home during the past two months.
"I’d also like to thank our teachers who have continued to provide support for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable throughout the lockdown period."
Also new today is the ability for one person, to meet with another person outdoors for recreation, having been previously limited to exercise only.
Now, individuals are able to meet with one other person from a different household for recreation, for example, having a coffee with a friend on a bench outside.
It is important that people still follow social distancing guidance, even in outdoor settings, and indoor mixing of households is not permitted.
In other new guidance, schoolchildren can take part in sport in school time or extra-curricular school run clubs and wraparound childcare can resume.
Care homes can also have one designated visitor per resident and life events continue to have maximum attendance limits; funerals are permitted to have 30 attendees, but weddings and wakes may only have six.
The next change is on March 29, when six people or two households can meet outdoors and outdoor sport and leisure facilities can reopen.
Ms Wightman added: “As we progress through the four step plan, we can all continue to help reduce case rates and transmission of the virus by; taking up our vaccine offer when it comes, taking regular testing where this is offered and finally, keeping socially distanced from those you do not live with, washing or sanitising your hands regularly and wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth in all settings where required or recommended to do so.
“We will get through this together.”