"We will end the one metre-plus rule on social distancing"
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all Covid-19 restrictions in England will end on July 19, 2021, in what has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’.
At a press conference, he said that limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be lifted.
Mr Johnson also stated that nightclubs will be able to reopen, masks will be voluntary and social distancing will end.
Mr Johnson’s announcement was expected but it comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
It also comes as 28 million people have been fully vaccinated.
In a bid to get more people vaccinated, the PM reduced the vaccine interval from 12 weeks to eight weeks for under 40s.
Mr Johnson said: “We will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors.
“We will allow all businesses to reopen including nightclubs.
“We will lift the limit on named visitors to care homes and the numbers of people attending concerts, theatre and sports events.
“We will end the one metre-plus rule on social distancing and the legal obligation to wear a face-covering although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so especially when cases are rising and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed places such as obviously crowded public transport.
“It will no longer be necessary for Government to instruct people to work from home so employers will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace.”
But Boris Johnson said that people will have to self-isolate after July 19.
He continued: “You will have to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.”
While masks will not be mandatory, he advised citizens to use their best judgement.
On whether he will continue to wear a mask, Mr Johnson said:
“It will depend on the circumstances.
“I think what we’re trying to do is move from Government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.
“Clearly there’s a big difference between travelling on a crowded tube train and sitting late at night in a virtually empty carriage on the main railway line.
“I will wear a mask in crowded places where you’re meeting people where you don’t know to protect others and as a matter of simple courtesy.”
However, the PM warned against people getting “demob happy”, adding that the UK is still “very far” from the end of the pandemic.
“I don’t want people to feel this is the moment to get demob happy (or think) this is the end of Covid.
“It is very far from the end of dealing with this virus.”
Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance noted that although vaccines have weakened the link between Covid and hospitalisations, it has not been “completely broken”.
The decision to lift restrictions was made rather than in winter which would have been a more “difficult time”.
Boris Johnson said: “If we don’t go ahead now when we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link between infection and death.
“If we don’t go ahead now when the summer firebreak is coming up, the school holidays, all the advantages that that should give us in fighting the virus, then the question is, ‘when would we go ahead?’.
“Particularly given the likelihood the virus will have an extra advantage in the colder months, in the autumn, and in the winter.
“So we run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage in the colder months, or again putting everything off to next year so I do think it’s going to be a very balanced decision next week.”
The lifting of restrictions comes after new Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that people will have to “learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu”.
What Happens when Restrictions are Lifted?
- Second vaccines for under-40s will be accelerated, happening after eight weeks not 12.
- People will be allowed to make their own decisions about what is safe, instead of behaviour being determined by laws.
- All businesses will be able to reopen, including nightclubs.
- All legal limits on indoor and outdoor meetings will go.
- The 1-metre rule on social distancing will go.
- The legal obligation to wear a face-covering will go. Instead, guidance will be issued on when people are advised to wear them.
- People will no longer be told to work from home.
- Covid-status certificates will not be required by the government to access venues. But businesses can choose to use them.
- Test and trace will continue, but the government wants to replace isolation with daily testing.
- Plans to replace bubbles for school pupils will be announced tomorrow.
- Plans to replace isolation for fully-vaccinated people returning from amber list countries will be announced later this week.