Heather Jameson 31 May 2020

Councils locked out of plans to lift lockdown

Plans to lift the lockdown for people who have been shielded were not revealed to local government before they were announced at the weekend.

Despite councils’ efforts to look after vulnerable people who have been asked to stay home due to illnesses put them at greater risk from coronavirus, communities secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement was not relayed to local authorities before he tweeted it in Saturday night.

In a twitter thread, he said the 2.2 million people would be able to go out for the first time from Monday, either with a member of their household or with one other person.

He said: ‘We are focused on finding the right balance between continuing to protect those who are at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the situation more bearable.’

He said there would be continued reports and updates.

However, Hart DC chief executive Patricia Hughes tweeted back: ‘Councils are working hard to ensure the shielded & vulnerable receive food, medicines and don’t feel isolated…. It would have been nice if you’d forewarned us. We spoke to your Shielding Team on Friday and they had no clue.’

There has also been widespread criticism of the move to lift lockdown for those in high risk categories as the COVID-19 ‘R’ rate remains around 0.7.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference today (Sunday). Mr Jenrick said he was ‘immensely grateful’ to the NHS for helping those most at risk.

‘We also recognise the role of local councils and parish councils, who have supported their residents with great effect.’

He added: ‘Now that we’ve passed the peak and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community has reduced significantly, we believe that the risk to those shielding is lower, as it is proportionately for the general population.’

‘I can announce today that we have updated the shielding guidance so that from tomorrow, Monday the 1st of June, people will be advised that they can take initial steps to safely spend time outdoors.’

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