In response to Boris Johnson’s statement on 28 May, Mayor Dan Jarvis said:
“The government has today announced a further change in the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This is a welcome development, especially for businesses which have been hard hit by the lockdown.
However, we must be clear and remind everyone this is still only an easing of some specific measures: it is not a general relaxation. The advice still remains to stay at home as much as possible, wash your hands, and if you do go out, keep two metres distance between yourself and anyone who is not already a member of your household.
What is different now is that certain non-essential retail shops can now open, so long as they have adequate protections in place. From Monday (June 1), you can meet up to six people from outside our household at a safe distance, and those meetings may take place in private gardens.
Some younger children will now return to the classroom, with students in years 10 and 12, who are due to take exams soon, expected to have some face-to-face contact with their teachers from the 15 June.
This new guidance raises a number of questions which people will want answers to – for example whether staff at shops which now open who have children at schools which remain closed will be able to remain on furlough. The government needs to ensure there is clarity on these issues, and to maintain support for workers so long as it is needed.
Easing the lockdown only makes sense if we have a robust system for testing and tracing new infections. That system is only launching today, amid some real concerns about its capacity. We will be keeping a very close eye on how it performs. Westminster must also work better with local authorities and Metro Mayors, and give them a seat at the table when decisions are being made, especially if there are any moves to impose local restrictions in response to outbreaks.
The government must also help make sure businesses have the crystal clear guidance and support they need on protective measures, and that enough spot checks are carried out. Our focus should be on getting credible protections into place fast, so we can get people back to work safely within the rules.
After Dominic Cummings clearly breached the lockdown rules, many people will be asking why they should follow any restrictions when some have treated them as optional. The restrictions of the past few months have been hard. Like you, I have accepted the frustrations and inconvenience of following the rules. But of course doing that is exponentially harder if there is any suspicion that others – whether it is government officials or people gathering in the local park – are not.
But we are not doing this for the sake of the government. We are doing for the sake of the NHS, of our loved ones, of our community and of our country. I’m immensely proud of the dignity and solidarity with which we have met this crisis so far. I believe we have the common sense to know that the effectiveness of measures against COVID still depends on us. Whatever the failures of leadership elsewhere, we must lead by example.”