Rachel Wigglesworth, Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has issued the following advice on how to socialise safely as restrictions ease over the next few weeks.
"The broad pattern nationally is a general reduction in coronavirus cases, which has enabled the next stage of government’s roadmap to easing restrictions to go ahead. However, it is expected that cases may fluctuate with each stage of reopening, so it’s really important to do what we can now to limit the spread, keep everyone safe and ensure further reopening can take place as planned.
Sticking to rules on meeting up with friends and family
One of the main changes to the restrictions that came into play on 29 March was the increase in the number of people who are able to meet outdoors. As you will be aware, outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the ‘Rule of 6’) or 2 households are now allowed. You must not meet indoors at this stage.
This rule will not be relaxed even after Step 2 of the roadmap comes into effect on 12 April and is not expected to be reviewed until at least 17 May. As we’ll be living with this rule for some time, I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify how and when you can meet up legally, safely and respectfully, taking into account the particular circumstances at play on the islands.
Whilst it is not hard to follow the rules on social contact, we appreciate that it can be difficult to remember them. The Isles of Scilly, like everywhere else in England, is subject to national guidance, but the small size of the community can mean that certain situations may be more likely to arise or have a disproportionate impact than on the mainland. For example, the fact that so many people know each other on the islands means that extra care needs to be taken not to mix groups beyond the limits determined by the social restrictions.
Before meeting outside with 5 other individuals from different households, or with your own household (or support bubble) and one other household, you should:
- Ensure all members of the group are aware of the current restrictions.
- Make it clear that others cannot be invited along or allowed to join your group. You should also consider the pressure individuals within another group may feel to leave their planned activity, if you join them unexpectedly.
- Not interact with other groups. If two separate groups are interacting, even if they are 2 meters apart, social contact rules are still being broken. We know this is a point of confusion, but it is a vital component of the rules and prevents larger groups inadvertently forming.
- Leave the situation if you inadvertently find yourself in a larger group which breaks the rules.
- Not allow children to mix between groups. The limits on the number of people who can meet socially outdoors also apply to children over 5 years old. These rules must be followed regardless of whether the children are mixing within school or other permitted childcare settings. Social restrictions can be really difficult for children to understand, so the best approach is to avoid busy areas or those already occupied by people they know.
- Consider those who have been shielding. The government advised that those shielding could cease to do so on 1 April. Many people in this situation may feel nervous about increasing their social activity and they should be enabled to do so safely, in line with the guidance.
Looking ahead: Step 2 of the roadmap - not before 12 April
This stage of the easing of restrictions will prompt the welcome return of the visitor economy on the islands, but it will also bring with it an increased need for caution and the continued observance of the ‘hands, face, space’ and ‘letting fresh air in’ guidance to mitigate the risk of spread. We are all looking forward to being able to do more, and by retaining a cautious approach to our behaviour, we can increase the likelihood of making it to Step 3 of the roadmap on or after 17 May.
There are several points to consider in advance of the Step 2 changes occurring:
- There may be a surge in cases nationally. Whilst we hope this doesn’t happen, it is a possibility as things open up and reinforces the point that we must do everything we can to mitigate the risk of spread as we begin to socialise more widely and meet in certain permitted indoor public spaces. Please note that household mixing indoors will still not be permitted at this stage, as it is considered to present a greater risk of transmission than meeting in permitted groups outside.
- There will be a greater need for businesses to keep track of their customers, so it is important you comply with this if you are planning to visit retail and hospitality premises when they reopen. Every customer or visitor aged 16 and over (not just a single member of the party) will be required to check in to each venue or provide their contact details. You can do this quickly and easily by scanning the venue’s NHS QR code poster using the official NHS COVID-19 app, which you can download from the following sites for free:
- Apple App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1520427663
- Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.nhs.covid19
- If you are running a business on the islands which can reopen at this time and need further advice on how to do so safely, you can contact the Council’s Environmental Health team on 07780 585 139 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you want people visiting the islands to observe the rules, it is important that as a community we are seen to be doing so alongside them. Please set a good example.
Getting a test
Please remember that if you experience any of the symptoms of coronavirus, at any time, regardless of the level of restrictions, you must self-isolate immediately and request a test.
To access a test:
- call our Testing Helpline on 01626 204950
If you do not have symptoms
From 9 April everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. About 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still infect others. Getting regular tests is the only way to know if you have the virus.
You can order tests to arrive at your house by post by visiting the government’s home testing website.
Your tests should arrive within a couple of days. Testing involves swabbing your nose and throat. All the instructions will be in the packaging.
For those of you who are already accessing community testing on the islands, you may continue to do so in the same way. If you have any questions relating to community testing, please email email@example.com.
Further information on coronavirus arrangements on the Isles of Scilly
The ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and advice’ pages on the Council website provide helpful information on the current local arrangements relating to coronavirus, including information for visitors to the islands.
The coronavirus vaccinations programme is being successfully rolled out on the islands by our NHS colleagues and you will be contacted directly to book your next appointment. We encourage everyone to take up the offer of a vaccine.
If you have any further queries about arrangements relating to coronavirus on the islands, please do not hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mixing indoors is not permitted at this time. If in doubt about how to meet safely outdoors, simply stick to the ‘Rule of 6’ and keep within the spirit of the guidance by erring on the side of caution at all times."