Date Published: 17 June 2021
This has been another week in which COVID-19 has dominated discussion, following news that the last remaining restrictions on public life will not now be lifted on Monday 21 June.
I know this announcement will have been incredibly disheartening for many people, particularly those in specific jobs and industries that have invested considerable time and money in preparing for what we hoped would be the final step of the journey.
Living through the pandemic has meant we’ve all become conditioned to a degree of uncertainty and disappointment. You need only cast you mind back to the end of last year when Christmas and news of a possible vaccine brought incredible hope and optimism, only to see us return to lockdown for a third time in January – a setback which I know hit many families extremely hard.
The important thing to note this time is that we are not going back. We are having to pause the rollback of restrictions due to the serious threat of a new COVID variant. This time will, instead, be used make sure the maximum number of people have received the maximum level of protection against the virus. This includes many thousands of people who are still to receive the all-important second vaccination, plus younger adults for whom the first vaccine dose is only just being made available.
Under the spring road map, the Government had hoped that 21 June would mark the point at which all COVID restrictions on social contact could be lifted and venues and events would be allowed to operate without capacity limits. As things now stand, we will need to wait until Monday 19 July to see these final changes introduced.
Although this feels like a backwards step, I know the majority of people agree that taking this extra precaution is the right thing to do. The alternative would be to open up further and risk an even greater rise in infections, hospital admissions and deaths.
The stage of the roadmap where we’ve paused still gives us a huge amount of individual and collective freedom, such as the ability to see friends and family outdoors, or indoors if applying the rule of six or two households. This is something we looked forward to for such a long time before the restrictions changed on 17 May and mustn’t be taken for granted. I urge everyone in the strongest possible terms to stay safe, be patient and keep following the rules that have helped us wrestle the virus back under control in Rutland. We must also continue to support one another – friends, family and neighbours.
Where we have local businesses and traders who will be adversely affected by this delay to the roadmap, we can help by shopping local and carrying them to the point where they can return to normal ways of working. It’s this kind of community spirit that has seen us through the pandemic so far and which will get us through the next four weeks, and beyond.
Councillor Oliver Hemsley
Leader of Rutland County Council