From March this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s four step roadmap began to help lift the UK out of lockdown and reopen the country. The UK is currently at Step Two of the government’s roadmap, which has so far seen schools re-open in March, and has allowed for outdoor hospitality to reopen in England since April 12.
Alongside pubs, restaurants and cafes, non-essential retail and gyms have also reopened, following almost four months of restrictions.
From May 17, indoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen under Step Three, along with museums, cinemas and hotels – should the data allow. Two households will also be able meet indoors for the first time since Christmas.
The roadmap is underpinned by four key tests that are linked to data, which will act like a checklist that must be met before moving on to the next step of reopening.
The four tests will determine whether the vaccine roll-out is going as planned; vaccines are effective in bringing down deaths and hospitalisations; case numbers are not rising so fast that the NHS risks being overwhelmed; and new variants do not create unforeseen risks.
The third test has triggered early debate, because rising cases alone will not be enough to stop reopening. That will happen only if rising cases risk overwhelming hospitals.
It comes as new data shows just one in 100 people hospitalised with Covid-19 since the start of Britain’s vaccine rollout had received a jab at least three weeks beforehand.
Scientists said the real-world data, showing the impact of vaccines on the most vulnerable people, had given them “a moment of joy”, and should reassure the public about the difference vaccines are making.
According to the new data, just one dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccines led to a two-thirds drop in cases and was 74 per cent effective against symptomatic infection.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed on April 28 that the UK had secured another 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will be used for booster jabs for the vulnerable, beginning in the autumn.
As of May 2, a total of 34,505,380 people have received one dose of the vaccine, with over 15.3 million people having received both jabs.
With this in mind, community activist and lawyer, Yunus Lunat is disappointed the government hasn’t taken steps to consider the possibility of exemptions to the rules to allow families to celebrate Eid together.
The Employment Law partner at Yorkshire Law firm Ison Harrison told Asian Standard:
“The failure by the government to even have a discussion about the possibility of exemptions to the rules to allow families to celebrate Eid together is in stark contrast to the conversations around Christmas which started by September and subsequently gathered momentum.
“This was despite all the data suggesting the idea of Christmas gatherings were just too dangerous and risky. We are in a totally different place now; with deaths and infections the lowest since the start of the pandemic and society gearing up to a return to a sense of normality.
“This, along with festivals for other faith groups, was an opportunity for the government to be proactive in its engagement and to demonstrate that it governs for all communities. This is particularly important in light of the difficulties that the authorities have experienced in conveying their messages regarding the virus risks and then the vaccinations to ethnic minority communities.”
British Muslims and community leaders had criticised the Health Secretary when he cancelled Eid-Al-Adha last year via a tweet at 9.16pm, the night before Eid celebrations were due to take place.
However, despite the ‘last-minute’ lockdown, Muslims quickly adapted and the vast majority cancelled their celebrations to follow the new guidelines set by the Health Secretary.
This year however, coronavirus cases are down and more than 15 million people have received their second vaccine jab. With the difference of a mere 4-5 days from Eid-Ul-Fitr to step three of lifting restrictions is it fair to ask the government to consider allowing Eid celebrations?
Matt Hancock stated on April 28 that current lockdown restrictions would not be eased ahead of schedule: “The data show that we are essentially precisely on track for where we expected to be at this point and that is obviously good news.” Mr Hancock also confirmed that there are no current plans to relax funeral restrictions.
Asian Standard asked the Muslim Council of Britain for their view on this. The spokesperson of MCB, avoided the question and instead responded with:
“The MCB’s priority remains ensuring the safety of our communities and by extension society generally. In line with this, we published our Safe Ramadan guidance and have been working closely with our affiliates to support them.”
What are your thoughts? Should the government consider easing lockdown and allow Eid celebrations a few days ahead of step three of the roadmap?
Join the conversation with #EasinglockdownforEid