The announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (22 February) of the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions comes at a time when reported cases and deaths from the virus have dropped significantly across Barnet and the rest of London. We should all be proud of the sacrifices that we have made during lockdown, which have no doubt saved many lives. I thank all of you who have done so much to keep others safe at this time.

However, it is incredibly important for all of us to understand that we are not in the clear yet and our return to normality will involve gradual changes over the next few months.

The first step will be on 8 March, when primary and secondary schools will re-open to all pupils External link. Secondary school pupils may be admitted on a phased basis during that week, to enable all pupils to be offered COVID-19 lateral flow tests.

This has been an extremely tough time for our young people, but throughout lockdown our fantastic teachers have continued to provide remote education for all children and young people unable to attend school, while schools remained open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

The next big date will be 29 March, when we will be able to meet a small number of people in outdoors settings, like our many excellent parks and greenspaces. If all goes well, and rates are not rising, then we will see leisure, non-essential retail and hospitality reopen in April. Further restrictions could be eased in May and June.

These milestones will only be reached if four conditions are met: the coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan; vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment; infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions; and new coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.

Winter has been difficult for us all, but spring brings hope of a summer that all of us can enjoy here in Barnet. Our community is our strength and I know we will continue to support each other for the sake of our health, wellbeing, and livelihoods.

Please remember: stay at home and Hands, Face, Space. Get vaccinated when it is offered to you. Together, we will get through this.

Cllr Dan Thomas, Leader of Barnet Council

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