PaJeS, the United Synagogue and Jewish organisations have welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s road map to ease lockdown restrictions by Pesach.
Schools can reopen from March 8th but most importantly community members in limited numbers, and safely, will be able to see loved ones over the festival period in outdoor settings.
More shuls are likely open, and from no earlier than May 17th, bar and batmitzvah’s can take place.
It is hoped all limits can be removed on weddings and other ‘life events’ from 21 June.
Johnson launched his highly-anticipated roadmap in a statement to parliament to ease lockdown restrictions in England on Monday afternoon before an address to the nation in the evening.
Johnson paid tribute to the success of the UK’s vaccination programme and resolve of the British public in following lockdown restrictions whilst setting out the latest vaccine efficacy data.
The roadmap has four steps. Before the next step is taken, the Government will examine data to assess the impact of previous steps. The assessment is based on four tests, the vaccine deployment programme, a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths, infection rates and new Variants of Concern.
There will be a minimum of five weeks between each step, four weeks for data to reflect changes in restrictions followed by seven days’ notice of restrictions to be eased.
Getting children back into school is the top priority in Step 1. From March 8th, all children and students will return to face to face education in schools and college as everyone in the top four vaccine priority cohorts have received a first vaccine dose and developed necessary protection.
The first step also covers wraparound childcare, one ‘regular’ visitor seeing Care home residents, recreation outdoors and university students on practical courses. Limited changes take place on 29 March regarding Stay at Home orders, outdoor gatherings, sports facilities and outdoor sports.
Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and weddings, receptions and commemorative events will rise to 15 people in Step 2 no earlier than 12 April.
This step also covers non-essential retail, personal care premises, such as hairdressers, public buildings including community centres, outdoor attractions including zoos and theme parks, drive-in cinemas, indoor leisure facilities including gyms and swimming pools, hospitality venues and self-contained accommodation such as holiday lets.
‘Life events’ in Step 3 no earlier than 17 May includes bar/bat mitzvah’s.
Other areas covered include outdoor cinemas and theatres, adult group sports and exercise classes, sporting events at indoor (1,000 people) and outdoor venues (4000 people). In the largest outdoor seated venues, 10,000 people is allowed. Up to 30 people may attend weddings and funerals.
Lastly, it is hoped legal limits on social contact can be removed in Step 4 no earlier than 21 June.
This covers weddings and other ‘life events’.
The vaccination programme continues with a new target to offer a first dose to every adult by the end of July. MPs will vote on regulations in Parliament in the coming weeks.
Rabbi David Meyer, Executive Director of PaJeS, commented, “We are sure that parents, students and teachers will be delighted that schools have been prioritised for reopening. It is also pleasing that school leaders have been given a proper lead time to prepare for their return. However, the scheduling of tests for secondary schools before the Pesach break is a complication. PaJeS is liaising with the government and continues to support schools as they work towards reopening on the 8th.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been over 850 Jewish funerals where the deceased contracted Covid-19.
Steven Wilson, US Chief Executive, is delighted that from March 29 shul members that have not seen children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents can finally see loved ones safely over Pesach in outdoor settings. They will be “special” reunions,” he noted.
The US is working with community leaders on fully re-opening synagogues and re-introducing in-person programming.
US’s chief noted, “It has been a very challenging year for the Jewish community and the country as a whole. Too many of our members have lost loved ones. Despite the easing of lockdown, the situation remains very serious and so all United Synagogue social distancing measures will remain in place. We will continue to assess and be led by the data and will provide guidance for our communities in due course as we have done for the past 12 months.”
Regarding Purim, he added, “We must not let the optimism provided by the vaccines and news about the easing of lockdown lead to unsafe changes in our behaviour. For our members able to attend a megillah reading in person, they must follow full social distancing guidelines. We also have a wonderful online programme to complement the digital events being put on by our communities so that everyone is able to celebrate safely.”
Full details of the roadmap is available on www.gov.uk