AFTER months of having the harshest restrictions imposed across England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stage two of his roadmap is to go ahead from April 12.

This means from Monday, non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms, beauty salons can reopen as well as restaurants and pubs, but can only serve food and drink to customers sitting outdoors.

Reacting to the additional easing, councillor Stuart Carroll, lead member for adult social care, children’s services, health, and mental health, said stage two is ‘reasonable’ given the evidence around where the UK is at with the vaccine programme, the infection rate, as well as the testing infrastructure has met the Prime Minister’s conditions.

Although welcoming the new phasing of easing, Cllr Carroll, who is also an epidemiologist and on the UK vaccine taskforce, urged for everyone to continue to follow the guidance such as continuing to wash hands regularly, wear face masks, social distancing, and get the first and second dose of the vaccine when called to do so.

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He said: “It’s positive in a broader sense because this pandemic has been very, very difficult for all of us and certain people in particular and the opportunity to enjoy a broader set of outlets, which are so critical to our health and wellbeing, and mental health as well, is welcomed.

“However, those welcomed benefits must be tapered with prudence and precaution.”

Cllr Carroll told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he took a lateral flow test a few moments ago, which he tested negative, and is encouraging people to get a test when needed.

With coronavirus cases declining in England and nearly half of the UK population has had their first dose of the Covid jab, some have argued lockdown should be lifted altogether.

In response to this, Cllr Carroll said it would be “foolhardy and rash” for the UK to ease too soon and could end back to ‘square one’ if the government doesn’t ease cautiously.

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He said: “The consequence of easing and opening up too quickly is that it gives the virus the time and space to once again spread, transmit, cases would inevitably go up, and deaths will sadly go up.

“Also, we would give the virus the opportunity to continue to mutate, and that means the virus could start to morph into additional variants and that places us in an even further challenge because although the evidence is looking promising that the vaccines are effective to different variants, we can’t be certain the vaccines are fully effective against those variants.

“Despite the outstandingly high effectiveness, data, and resource for the vaccines, no vaccine is completely 100 per cent effective in every single person.”

Cllr Carroll also argued not everyone is vaccinated, increasing the exposure rate for those who don’t have the antibodies to fight the virus.