This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Petersfield Post and Herald editions:
"The news this week that we will be able to move to Step 3 of the roadmap as planned from next Monday was perhaps not a big surprise and much anticipated by many.
The progress we have continued to see in both the rollout of the vaccination programme as well as the fall in infections, hospitalisations and deaths has certainly meant we were able to feel optimistic about the easing of more restrictions.
But the real-world data released by Public Health England on the protection afforded by the vaccines was simply extraordinary – their report this week shows protection against death from the Pfizer jab rises from around 80 percent after one dose to 97 percent after two doses – with further evidence that the vaccine is highly effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation, especially in older age groups.
And although the same timeline of data is not yet available for the AstraZeneca vaccine, there is already data to show that individuals who receive a single dose have approximately 80 percent power risk of death from Covid-19.
It has been truly astonishing to see the development and distribution of these highly effective vaccines in such a short period of time, but also sobering to think how different our choices may have been if that had not been possible.
So from Monday, indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment and sport can resume, including cinemas, museums and children’s play areas.
Up to 6 people or 2 households will be able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors. Care home residents will be able to have up to five named visitors, with two visitors able to attend together.
Some larger outdoor events will be able to take place, including conferences, theatre and concerts, with restrictions on the number of attendees remaining as set out in the roadmap. Remaining university students can return for in person teaching, and up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings and receptions, and the number able to attend a funeral will be determined by how many can be safely accommodated in the venue.
Although strict controls will remain in place for most destinations, people will be able to travel abroad. Hotels and B&Bs will reopen and everyone will be able to travel within Britain and stay overnight.
As exciting as these changes are, they are not without risk - the Prime Minister has made clear the need for everyone to determine the amount of risk they pose for themselves and for others.
Learning to live with the virus is the next major challenge. It remains true that outdoors is safer than indoors, and ventilation helps. Keeping your distance on public transport and in workplaces, shops, pubs and restaurants will still be necessary, as will getting tested regularly.
Making our own decisions in this way will I think be welcomed by most. We are all now much more conscious of risks and how to mitigate them.
These freedoms have been hard won and I think the instinct for many will be cautious and considered. The pandemic has meant life has been forever changed for some, but adjusting to a new post-pandemic environment will have challenges.
Being able to hug friends and family, stay away from home, plan a theatre or cinema trip or resume an indoor sport or activity - these are small but significant changes in our lives and thinking about how we continue to protect ourselves and others will be important.
With an average of 4 social contacts each day – down from a pre pandemic average of 11 – we will all be faced with opportunities to be among more people and the need to make decisions on how comfortable we are on doing that.
There is still caution ahead of step 4 on the 21st June, including the recent spread here in the UK of the Variant of Concern that originated in India. Although the current rate of infection is not judged to pose a threat to the NHS, testing and isolating cases is key, as is the work underway to prepare booster vaccinations for the autumn.
And although more than two thirds of the adult population have now received a single dose of a vaccine, the on-going rollout of the vaccine programme continues to be the priority and the best way to ensure these freedoms stay with us."