The Prime Minister is expected to confirm plans to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions in England today (12 July), despite rising coronavirus cases.
Boris Johnson has said that the plan to restore freedoms “must come with a warning”, stressing the need for caution as the country moves towards Step 4 of the lockdown exit plan.
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Restrictions were originally meant to be lifted last month on 23 June but plans were delayed amid concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta Covid variant.
Downing Street has said the delay has meant the end of restrictions is closer to the school holidays, where transmission rates are expected to be lower, while reopening later in the year risks putting too much pressure on the NHS due to other seasonal illnesses, such as flu.
After announcing the four-week setback, Mr Johnson said he was confident that the new target of 19 July would be met.
When is Boris Johnson’s next announcement?
Mr Johnson will host a Downing Street press conference on Monday (12 July) and is scheduled to speak at 5pm.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid will announce the plans in Parliament while Mr Johnson delivers the press conference.
Downing Street said the lifting of measures will be based on four key tests. These include the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence the coronavirus vaccines is causing a reduction in hospital admissions and deaths, that infection rates do not risk a surge in admissions, and that no new Covid-19 variants of concern throw the progress made off track.
What is Boris Johnson expected to announce?
Mr Johnson is today expected to confirm the plan to lift all remaining restrictions on 19 July, dubbed ‘freedom day’, including the legal requirement to wear face masks and the end of social distancing.
Working from home guidance will be scrapped in England, but it will be left up to employers and staff to decide if and when a return to offices will take place.
The government is planning to change isolation rules in schools after whole class ‘bubbles’ have been sent home if just one pupil tests positive for Covid-19. Instead of forcing the entire bubble to self-isolate, those who have been in contact with a positive case are expected to be given daily tests to help manage outbreaks.
There will be no compulsory use of Covid status certification – so-called domestic vaccine passports – although firms will be able to voluntarily use the system. Recent test events have trialled the use of Covid certification – where spectators must provide proof of either full vaccination, a recent negative test or existing immunity – but these so-called ‘vaccine passports’ will not now be compulsory for entry.
The changes to the restrictions mean that mass outdoor events such as festivals and sports matches can return to full capacity.
As for holidays, people who have received two Covid-19 vaccine doses will see quarantine rules scrapped from 19 July. This means that fully vaccinated Brits will avoid having to self-isolate for 10 days after returning to England from amber list countries, which currently includes several popular tourist spots.
The PM has said the end of restrictions in England is now “tantalisingly close”, but stressed that the lifting of restrictions comes with a warning.
Coronavirus cases are expected to rise once all remaining restrictions are removed, with Mr Johnson urging the need for caution over the coming weeks.
He said: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet.
“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear.
“Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”
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