After Rishi Sunak's attempts to kickstart the economy on Wednesday, the government has announced plans to further unwind the lockdown. From this weekend, artists and musicians can perform live outside while outdoor pools will also be opened. As of Monday, beauticians, spas, tattooists, and tanning salons can reopen. Finally those looking to work off any lockdown pounds can celebrate the news that gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres will open on 25 July. As has become the new normal, each relaxation comes with new caveats on social distancing.
The announcement suggests that, as things stand, the UK's roadmap out of lockdown is broadly going to plan. However, there are still missing parts. In the Q&A that followed Oliver Dowden's government press conference on Thursday, the Culture Secretary was asked how people were supposed to enjoy all their newfound freedoms when the advice on using public transport still appears to be only for essential journeys. Dowden said this was why there has been an 'intense drive' on other forms of transport such as walking and cycling – though if there really was no alternative people could use public transport. The minister appeared to suggest this was a Londoncentric problem – saying that outside of the capital lots of people use cars.
However, it is a cause of increasing concern in Whitehall. One government figure complains that ministers are yet to realise the ramifications of discouraging people from using public transport – 'they all get cars'. It's no coincidence that many of the redundancies currently planned – with John Lewis announcing staff cuts today – relate to brands housed in city centres. With the public transport guidance as it stands and individuals encouraged to work from home where they can, city centres today are near deserted. Sunak's measures to entice individuals to spend will fail to have the desired effect if a large chunk of the public remains solely in residential areas.