What next for Devon and Cornwall as lockdown phases are prepared

Devonlive reviews an extensive list of ideas and suggestions coming from Government and local businesses and MPs.

Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to unveil plans for what happens next in the Covid-19 crisis, we take a look at how Devon and Cornwall will look in the next few months.

The future is looking harsh for the region with tourism and hospitality forming the backbone of the economy and the sector facing the most unanswered questions.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove warned that people will not be able to travel to visit seaside resorts in places such as Devon and Cornwall ‘for some time to come’.

And rather than easing the ban on holidays and travel, harsher fines for those breaching the lockdown rules are expected to be announced.

Tourism industry chiefs and MPs are working with the Government to try to find ways to keep staff and customers safe.

One suggestion is a ‘compliance certificate’ for businesses who prove they can trade in a way that stops the spread of coronavirus infections.

One holiday park owner has come up with a ‘soft opening’ plan by allowing people to take a holiday only within their own health authority area.

So what will reopen, what will stay shut – and how will everyday life change across Devon and Cornwall? We’ve had a look at the main proposals below.

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The PM’s plan will make clear that the UK is not ready to return to business as usual. Some restrictions will be eased, but others – like fines for breaches – will be made harsher than they are now.

Fines – The government is considering raising the penalty for defying lockdown from £60 to £100 for a first offence with a maximum fine rising from just under £1,000 at the moment to £3,200.

Social bubbles – People could meet small bubbles of friends and family in  one of the first steps out of lockdown.  But it will have to be the same small group of people for many weeks, to prevent Covid-19 being passed on more widely.

Schools – will be first to go back, with a phased return. Ministers hope that will be before the summer holidays. Boris Johnson has signalled he wants primary schools to open first, and it has been suggested Year 6 could go back first.

Years 10 and 12 (GCSE and A-level years) would be the first in secondary schools, according to one plan seen by the Sunday Telegraph.

Pubs, big sports events and large social gatherings – Pubs will be the last places to reopen as lockdown is eased, the Government has confirmed. Large indoor events could be banned until 2021.

Devon-based JDWetherspoon boss Tim Martin says he hopes to open his 900-strong stable to pubs from June.

Workplaces – The two-meter apart rules will change the way workspaces look. the Tuesday following the second May bank holiday has been highlighted as a possible date for offices, factories and some shops to re-open. But it looks as if home working will stay the norm where possible.

Sport – smaller, local cricket and grassroots football could return first, as long as spectators can stay in the open air and do not congregate in the club bar after the match.

Public transport – the time ‘is not yet’ right to allow people on to super-spreader, public transport vehicles like buses, trains and planes. But the plans include supermarket-style spacing, one-way systems and hand sanitisers. Firms could stagger work hours to cut the numbers at rush hour.

Tourism and hospitality – Sadly for the South West this vital part of the economy could be one of the last industries to reopen fully. Spaced out tables, screens between customers, paper menus…there are just some of the ideas being thrown around about how the restaurant trade will reopen.

In Parliament Michael Gove told MPs that “at the moment and for some time to come” members of the public should not travel to visit popular seaside resorts.

Cornwall’s tourism chief Malcolm Bell says said that any opening up of the holiday industry would have to be gradual. “You don’t suddenly want five million visitors from across the UK and abroad descending on us. But what’s wrong with somebody from Devon going to a Cornish holiday park? We are both relatively low-risk areas.”

Devon and Cornwall is understandably proud of its renowned stunning coastlines, wide open spaces and gallons of fresh air and thrive from the millions of visitors who come to enjoy our part of the world each year.

However, the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK has changed our day to day lives while the government is calling for the nation to stop all non essential travel in a bid to stop the spread of the disease that has so tragically claimed lives in the UK.

In the South West not only do we have a proportion of elderly people living here, those who are some of the most vulnerable to coronavirus, but we also have NHS trusts that are stretched to capacity without any extra pressure.

We want to help saves lives and help bring an end to the outbreak as soon as we possibly can.

Therefore we are aiming to spread the message of come back later as far and as wide as possible through a campaign launching today – #comebacklater.

The only alternative would be a huge injection of government cash – in the region of £1 billion for Devon and Cornwall – to mothball the tourism industry until 2021, Mr Bell said.

Andrew Baragwanath, owner of Ayr Holiday Park in St Ives  suggests a staged plan: “If for example someone from Truro wanted a couple of days away in St Ives and maintained social distancing measures, the risk to the Royal Cornwall Hospital being overcrowded wouldn’t be much different to as it is now.

“But if we suddenly allowed people from a coronavirus hotspot to travel in one go, then the risk of overloading the hospitals down here is much greater as there are more people.”

The legal date to review the lockdown is Thursday May 7, and Boris Johnson is expected to extend it for another three weeks, possibly with a few minor changes.

But the PM will also – separately – announce a “roadmap” for easing the UK out of lockdown. This is expected later in the week, possibly only on Sunday 10 May.

The timing depends on the “R”, or reproductive rate, of the virus, which must be under one – with infections continually falling.

The ‘R’ number is the average number of people infected by each Covid-19 carrie.

Here at Devon Live, we’re normally all about showing you the best places to eat, drink and generally go out and have a good time.

But as social distancing replaces socialising in the battle to slow the spread of coronavirus, that’s had to change for now.

And in response we’ve created Stay In – because staying at home is the best thing we can all do to support our NHS and save lives.

We’ll be focusing our attention on ways to help you stay entertained at home – from the best film and TV recommendations to live streamed gigs and theatre shows you can watch from your sofa.

From fitness routines you can do at home to cookery tips to help you make the most of a limited larder, we’ll be bringing you daily ideas to help you get through the lockdown.

We’ll continue to champion our local businesses by showing you alternative ways we can all support our local restaurants, bars and venues during this difficult time.

With schools now shut, we know many of you will now be juggling working from home – or going out to work as a key worker – with childcare and home schooling, and we’ll be publishing plenty of family-focused content that will help you to find that balance.

You can also expect plenty of fun stuff to take your mind off the current crisis, from quizzes and activities to good old-fashioned nostalgia.

View all our Stay In articles here. Stay home. Stay safe.

Currently R is about 0.7 because so many people are out of contact with each other. Every time you relax a lockdown rule, R rises again. Ministers say they won’t do anything that pushes the R number back above 1.

The UK must also pass five tests before easing lockdown:

  • The NHS is able to cope
  • A sustained fall in deaths
  • New infections dropping enough
  • Adequate testing and PPE
  • No risk of a second peak that overwhelms NHS

This would allow businesses to get ready to bring in new social distancing measures for workers, such as screens and spaces between desks, designed to prevent any further spread of coronavirus.

Adam Kucharski, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is advising the Government and has warned that the virus could spread at an exponential rate if the lockdown is ended too early and certain events are allowed.

How the Government’s post-lockdown safety proposals will work…

  • Carrying out risk assessments for Covid-19 at all workplaces
  • Keeping people working from home where they can
  • Keeping workers two metres apart in the workplace where possible
  • Using PPE – face coverings will be useful in some workplaces where social distancing

is impossible, but also for giving people confidence they can go back to work

  • Using floor markings and one-way flow at entrances and exits to businesses
  • Cutting maximum occupancy in lifts
  • Staggering break times to reduce pressure on the break rooms or canteens
  • Staggering start times
  • Changing workspace layouts and seating plans to let employees work

further apart

  • Moving vulnerable workers into lower risk activities where they have the highest chance of remaining two metres away from others or roles where they can work from home
  • Introducing more frequent deep cleans of work areas, and cleaning and

disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly