08 March 2021
Back to school written on a chalk board

​Today, the first step of the Government’s four step plan to emerge from lockdown begins.

Step one consists of two parts, the first of which begins today with the return of students to schools, colleges and some practical based university courses. Staff and secondary school pupils will be tested for COVID-19 regularly in preparation for, and following, their return.

Testing is also available for families and childcare bubbles of those returning to school, which will help reduce the risk of cases going undetected. We would encourage all those eligible to take up this offer, to do so.

Also new today is the ability for one person, to meet with another person outdoors for recreation. This was previously limited to exercise only. Now, individuals are able to meet with one other person from a different household for recreation, for example, having a coffee with a friend on a bench outside. It is important that people still follow social distancing guidance, even in outdoor settings.

Indoor mixing of households is not permitted

In other new guidance, schoolchildren can take part in sport in school time or extra-curricular school run clubs and wraparound childcare can resume.

The latest guidance also allows care homes to permit one designated visitor per resident. Each care home setting will need time to put measures in place to facilitate this whilst keeping all residents, staff and visitors safe. Visitors are asked to be patient whilst these arrangements are implemented.

Finally, life events continue to have maximum attendance limits; funerals are permitted to have 30 attendees, but weddings and wakes may only have six. Wakes must not take place in a residential dwelling or a family home.

The Government roadmap outlines four steps for easing restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of the previous step. This assessment will be based on four tests:

  1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  4. Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern

Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health at Northamptonshire County Council said:


Today marks the first step on a long road to a more normal way of life. We have achieved so much in bringing down case rates locally and continued public compliance with the relaxing of the rules is essential in enabling us to follow the timeline set out by the Government. Therefore, I urge the residents of Northamptonshire to continue to work with us in order that we may return to normal ways sooner rather than later.

I know that the return to education for our children is welcomed by many parents, students and teachers alike. I’d like to thank parents for their hard work in balancing the demands of home schooling and working from home during the past two months. I’d also like to thank our teachers who have continued to provide support for the children of key workers and the most vulnerable throughout the lockdown period.

As we progress through the four step plan, we can all continue to help reduce case rates and transmission of the virus by; taking up our vaccine offer when it comes, taking regular testing where this is offered and finally, keeping socially distanced from those you do not live with, washing or sanitising your hands regularly and wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth in all settings where required or recommended to do so.

We will get through this together.”