On 8 March the country began its journey out of Coronavirus lockdown restrictions towards a ‘new normal’ where society is back to something approaching the life we remember from 2019. Tentatively, restrictions are being lifted, and 8 March saw the first of these, with the resumption of education – with some continuing limitations such as use of face-masks, social distancing etc.
12 April saw us move into Step 2 and there was much joy across the land as non-essential retail shops opened, as did beer gardens! Although this joy was also tempered by anxiety in some quarters as to the possible repercussions of this relaxing of the rules – only time will tell if this anxiety was well-founded.
So, its baby steps towards the final lifting of (nearly) all restrictions. The Roadmap revealed by the government sets out the various stages until the final, Step 4 is reached, but what are the implications for organisations such as charities or community groups looking to deliver services for their beneficiaries or service users?
Step 2 is the milestone which starts to offer greater opportunities for groups and charitable activities. Now, libraries and community centres can re-open, as can indoor leisure centres and gyms. Restrictions on out of school settings opening their doors were also lifted – so your Scouts and Guides units may be able to return for example.
It’s not until Step 3 that indoor entertainment venues can open. These include cinemas and children’s play areas. Some larger performances and sporting events can start allowing spectators back in, but with restrictions on numbers attending. During Step 3 the government has promised to review the rules on social distancing – but until this review is complete, these rules are still applicable, so we’re not seeing any radical relaxation any time soon.
Most of the above relates primarily to our ‘social’ interactions. The rules for work changed much earlier, although with the exhortation to work from home where possible or to otherwise limit our travel. Volunteering activity has also been permissible as have support groups where these couldn’t happen online. Some limited examples were given in the government guidance as to what was permissible such as volunteering at foodbanks or support groups for people with long-term illnesses, but these were only examples. If you are considering re-opening for any activities, the most important thing is to look at how you can deliver safely. Consider the safety of your staff, your volunteers, your beneficiaries, and if you cannot deliver in a way which satisfies you is safe, then do not open! Consult with your staff, volunteers and beneficiaries before you open. Conduct your risk assessments, and notify your insurers too – Covid-19 has changed everything so make no assumptions about how people feel about meeting up in large groups, travel, attitudes to risk etc etc.
The speed at which we reach the sunlit uplands of a restriction free life will depend on various factors, not least the extent to which people comply with the rules and therefore help to limit the spread of the disease; the take-up and continued roll-out of the vaccination programme, and the extent and consequences of any changes to the virus itself.
We’re not yet out of the woods, but we can perhaps glimpse the future, and as trustees and custodians of public assets, now might be the time to start planning for the time when you consider it is safe for people to resume activities for which you have responsibility – either within your premises or for your beneficiaries.
See below for some of the latest government guidance
Roadmap and latest restrictions
Roadmap out of lockdown
Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do
Grassroots sports guidance for the public and sport providers