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Business & Economy

UK lockdown eased in first steps out of coronavirus crisis

The UK lockdown has been eased today (May 13) to allow for unlimited exercise and to encourage those who cannot work from home to go back to work.

After more than seven weeks of staying at home, people in England can now spend more time outside and can meet up with one person from another household, so long as social distancing measures are respected.

Workers who can work from home are still encouraged to do so wherever possible. But those working in sectors such as food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics and distribution should travel to work if their workplace is open.

To mitigate the risk to those returning to work, the Government has published “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines for each industry on how to work safely during coronavirus.

A series of eight guides covering a range of different work settings has been put together in consultation with industry and trade unions to try and get the economy moving again in a safe and sustainable way.

The Government is also asking those travelling to work to avoid using public transport if they can and to ensure that if buses, trains and undergrounds must be used, then social distancing guidance should be “rigorously” followed.

The public are now advised to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces such as public transport and supermarkets where social distancing is not possible to help reduce the risk of transmission.

From today, people can spend as much time outdoors as they like providing they do not meet up with more than one person from outside their household.

It is thought that low contact sports such as angling, tennis, golf and bowls will be permitted as well as team sports if they are only played with other members of your household.

People may drive to outdoor spaces irrespective of distance but should not travel to different parts of the UK, where different guidance on coronavirus has been issued.

Those considered extremely clinically vulnerable should continue to “shield” and not leave the house or attend any gatherings, whereas the over 70s generally must take extra precautions to minimise contact.

Step one of the Government’s “Plan to Rebuild” as set out above will be in place until June 1 at the earliest, after which point step two could be introduced.

This would include a phased return to school for young children, the re-opening of non-essential retail and possibly the expansion of the household group to include one other household, allowing loved ones separated by the pandemic to reconnect.

The easing of the lockdown comes as figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the UK economy is shrinking at its fastest rate since 2008.

In the first quarter of 2020, UK GDP contracted by 2 per cent, emphasizing the need to re-open workplaces and resume normal business activity.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This is one of the biggest international challenges faced in a generation. But our great country has faced and overcome huge trials before.

“Our response to these unprecedented and unpredictable challenges must be similarly ambitious, selfless and creative.

“Thank you for your efforts so far, and for the part everyone in the UK will play over the months ahead.”