A new timeline for reopening the economy in England, what does this mean for techUK members?
The Government released a Spring update to its COVID-19 response on 22 February 2021. The new route map which follows the early success of the UK’s vaccine rollout aims to provide a pathway to lifting all social distancing restrictions by 21 June 2021 at the earliest.
The route map sets out four steps for the easing of the lockdown in England:
Step 1: starting on 8 March and 29 March, allows for the return of schools and an increase in outdoor social activities.
Step 2: at least five weeks from Step 1 and no earlier than 12 April, this step will see non-essential retail re-open, outdoor hospitality and personal care services such as hairdressers allowed to operate.
Step 3: at least five weeks from Step 2 and no earlier than 17 May, allowing for the return of the rule of six indoors and an expansion of outdoor activities, including the piloting of large capacity outdoor events.
Step 4: at least five weeks from Step 3 and no earlier than 21 June, this step sees the end of all legal limits on social contact, and updated guidance to help the public reduce transmission of the virus.
Please note the updated plan and steps outlined above apply to England only. For information on COVID-19 guidelines and regulations across the other nations of the UK please visit the respective COVID-19 hubs from the Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Executive and Welsh Government.
Information for businesses
The updated strategy has a number of implications for businesses regarding guidance on working from home, workplace testing, international travel and a possible COVID-19 status certification scheme.
Working from home: businesses will be asked to instruct workers to continue working from home where they can until at least 21 June.
However, for those businesses able to re-open from 12 April, such as non-essential retail and leisure facilities updated guidance will be issued via gov.uk to ensure workplaces comply with social distancing guidelines.
Workplace testing: As around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t display symptoms, all businesses with over 50 employees are eligible to apply to provide rapid testing programmes in the workplace.
Businesses can sign up for the workplace testing programme at gov.uk and should aim to register with the service by the end of March. Tests are currently being provided free to both public and private sector employers until at least 31 March.
Businesses with less than 50 staff, sole traders, the self-employed, or members of the public, should visit their local authority’s website for further information about local testing services.
International travel: The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will provide a report on international travel on 12 April. This will include recommendations for return to international travel as soon as possible, while also seeking to guard against potential new variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Based on these recommendations the Government will take a decision about when and under what conditions international travel will be permitted again. International travel will not be permitted other than in exceptional circumstances before 17 May.
COVID-19 Status Certification: The Government will review whether a COVID-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety.
COVID status certification involves using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others.
In designing any certification, the Government will draw on external advice to develop recommendations that take into account any social, ethical and economic impacts, as well as any implications for disproportionately impacted groups and for privacy and security. Conclusions from a review by Government will be set out in advance of step 4 (21 June at the earliest).
techUK will continue to engage closely with Government and analyse any new guidance offered to business in relation to employer discretion.
You can find additional information and guidance on techUK’s COVID-19 information hub.
As Head of Policy Neil leads techUK's domestic policy development. He regularly engages with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and Members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of supporting government and industry to work together to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop technology companies.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s engagement in the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations, as well as leading on economic policy.
He has a background in the UK Parliament and in social research. Neil holds a masters degree in Comparative Public Policy from the University of Edinburgh and an undergraduate degree in International Politics from City, University of London.