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England is easing the lockdown

As we all know, here in Europe, the countries are relaxing the lockdown. Each one is doing it differently, but the vast majority are trying to get back to what we call “the new normal”.

In England, pharmacies, supermarkets, convenience stores, banks and gas stations remained open throughout the lockdown period caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

On May 13, gardening centres were the first ones allowed to reopen, as the risk of transmitting the virus is lower in open spaces. However, they needed to follow safety guidelines such as the 2-meter (6ft) distancing between people, heavily sanitation and use of PPE measures to protect customers and the workers.

Now, from June 1st, the reopening of outdoor markets and car dealerships has been allowed, and from June 15, all non-essential stores in England will be able to reopen, following the same rules mentioned above.

These measures include having limits on the number of people allowed to enter stores and restrictions on how people move inside them.
To know more about these security measures, visit this website here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches

Even with the authorization for stores to reopen on the 15th, several stores from major chains such as John Lewis, Next and Primark have decided that they will only open some of their shops, to do a “test” and see how they can do this reopening correctly and safely.

Bars, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels and cinemas may be able to open from July 4th, depending on how the number of infections will be in that period and if these places manage to comply with the social distance measures.

However, indoor public spaces, such as beauty salons, where social distance is practically impossible, quite possibly may reopen only later, also depending on when the infection rate drops.

At the moment the UK has the highest official death toll in Europe and the second highest in the world with more than 270,000 cases of people tested positive with COVID-19, over 7,600 still hospitalized and unfortunately more than 38,000 deaths. Though, more than 45,000 death certificates are mentioning the virus.

As I mentioned in my previous post (here), some of these deaths likely include people with undiagnosed coronavirus or people who died as an indirect result of the pandemic. Hence, the number of certificates are higher.

Although daily deaths have declined, that drop has also declined in recent days. At the government’s daily briefing, doctor Jenny Harries said that if little or no change occurs after a period of progress in the number of deaths, we should be concerned. She said that the numbers need to be monitored for a few more days to “understand what is happening”.

In reality, several scientists, including some who are helping and guiding the government during the pandemic, are against lockdown relaxation measures. According to them, these measures are being taken rather quickly and for political reasons.

In these new measures, from June 1st, the population can gather in groups of 6 people from different residences to exercise, to have picnics and barbecues as long as it is in open spaces, such as parks and private gardens and that maintain the distance of 2 meters (6ft) from each other.

For example, if you go to someone’s garden, you should bring your food, cutlery and crockery and if you use the bathroom in that house, you must clean any surface you have touched.

Here in England, there are also two risk groups: the vulnerable and the extremely vulnerable (which unfortunately I belong). Both groups received a letter and calls from the NHS with instructions for each case.

The vulnerable group are:
– people over 70,
– pregnant women,
– people with a non-severe lung condition,
– those with heart disease,
– diabetes,
– chronic kidney disease,
– liver disease,
– have a condition that affects the brain or nerves (such as illness Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, etc.),
– have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections,
– people who take drugs that can affect the immune system or
– those who are very obese.

Whoever is in this category, it is advisable to stay at home as much as possible, and if they go out, they should minimize contact with other people outside their home. But from June 1, they can meet someone from another household, as long as they follow the rules of social distance, of course.

The extremely vulnerable group, on the other hand, includes:
– people who had organ transplants,
– those undergoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy,
– radiation therapy for lung cancer,
– are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system,
– have blood or bone marrow cancer,
– had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 months or are still taking immunosuppressive medication,
– have a severe lung condition,
– have a condition where there is a very high risk of getting infections,
– people who are taking drugs that increase the likelihood of getting infections,
– people who had their spleen removed (my case),
– hemodialysis treatments and
– pregnant women who have a severe heart condition.

This group must still stay at home at all times and avoid contact with anyone (shielding), isolating themselves entirely at least until the end of June, and this period may extend if necessary.

After ten weeks, on June 1 some schools reopened for children of certain ages. However, several schools have decided not to open or are resuming more gradually, to “test” how they will be able to follow the rules imposed by the government.

Many parents and teachers fear that, whether they want to or not, it is challenging to follow these rules and keep the necessary distance and hygiene in place. I believe that the fear intensified after France reopened schools and the number of infections progressed considerably, causing more than 70 schools to close again.

Astonishingly, May was the driest month on record in England in the past 124 years, and the UK has gone through the sunniest spring since records began in 1929.

The weekend of 30-31th of May was sunny and hot, making hundreds of people heading to the seaside. That made the government and the population, very concerned because although they still ask the community to stay at home as much as possible, many ignore and this can cause the numbers of infected to increase again.

Speaking of infections, the NHS made a website available (see here), where people who have tested positive for coronavirus, must fill out a form with information such as who they live with, places they have recently visited, names and contact information of people with whom you were nearby within 48 hours before the onset of symptoms, etc.

Those people who have been in contact with you will be reached by the NHS Test and Trace and instructed to isolate themselves for 14 days, even if they are asymptomatic.

The smartphone app that would automatically alert people that they have been in contact with someone with coronavirus is still being tested on the Isle of Wight.
It should have been launched in mid-May, but the government now says it will be ready in the coming weeks.

Also, what I realized was that supermarkets and pharmacies had slightly increased the prices of several products since the beginning of the lockdown in March.
However, many products are still out of stock or in short supply, such as flour, yeast, hand sanitizer, boxed milk, etc.

The sources for my updates are from government official channels, or news from reliable media such as the BBC.

However, it does not mean that if our leaders are asking for the population to stay at home, and the vast majority are obeying these rules, there will be cases where the minority will disregard them and fill up our parks or the coast during the most restricted period of the lockdown.

As for the police, sadly, they had a decrease on the number of officers for the past years, which made it impossible to control and impose fines in several places where people were not following the restrictions.

Fortunately, most people took it seriously and helped the NHS not to have a much higher peak, thus saving lives. I hope that people continue to take care of themselves, taking seriously the distance and the use of personal equipment to protect themselves and others.

An excellent week to all of us!

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