A senior government minister has said he is confident the government is doing the right thing by proceeding with Freedom Day.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was “confident” the government was “doing the right thing” in lifting most coronavirus restrictions in England.
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He told Sky News: “We have to be careful, we have to remain vigilant.
“Our border controls remain in place, our expectation and recommendation that people in crowded places continue to wear masks and take both personal and corporate responsibility, and it is great to see TfL and others doing that.
“It is a step forward, an important step forward – there is no perfect time to take this step, this is as good a time as any as (Professor) Chris Whitty has said, with the summer holidays and schools being out, which will hopefully bear down on the R number, the transition rate.”
What Covid changes relaxed on Freedom Day?
Throughout the course of the pandemic, Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of following dates rather than data.
There was the vow that it would be “inhuman” to cancel Christmas due to the virus, before the grinding U-turn.
Then there was the new roadmap out of lockdown, with more dates set in stone. Or not, as it proved to be with 21 June.
And so here we are on 19 July, the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ for England, with all remaining restrictions axed.
It has prompted Downing Street to call for a cautious approach to the new freedoms in England after people returned to nightclubs in the early hours of 19 July.
UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said nightclubs could be “potential super spreading events”.
Now, ministers want clubbers to be fully jabbed before September - with proof of a ‘Covid passport’ - which has been condemned by night club bosses.
Michael Kill, chief executive officer of the Night Time Industries Association slammed the government’s plan to require full vaccination as condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues from the end of September as an “absolute shambles”.
It comes as a further 39,950 lab-confirmed cases were announced in the UK on 19 July, along with an additional 19 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test.
Other than the fierce debate over the future of the nightclub industry - face masks are no longer mandatory in shops and on public transport, limits on gatherings are now scrapped, the work from home guidance no longer applies and social distancing rules ended at one minute past midnight.
Will there be another lockdown?
Asked on 19 July whether Boris Johnson could still promise the road map out of restrictions was irreversible, the prime minister said that was the “hope”.
Johnson said: “The road map is, we hope, irreversible. I think I said that from the get-go.
“But we can’t guarantee that, something could obviously happen that changes our calculations, and we’ve got to be humble in the face of nature.
“There could be some new mutant, some new variant of the virus that we have to respond to in a particular way, I’ve always been very clear about that.
“The only way we can make the road map irreversible is by continuing to be cautious.
“And that I’m afraid is why we’ve got to continue with the measures that we are.”
He added: “We have the opportunity now, the firebreak of the school holidays, plus we have the risk of opening up in the colder months.”
From 16 August, people in England who have received both doses of a vaccine – as well as the under-18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid.
After even more confusion from business minister Paul Scully over whether the public should make their own minds up over self-isolating if they are pinged by the Covid app – Number 10 said it was “crucial” for people to quarantine in line with the app’s recommendation.
Since taking over as Health Secretary from Matt Hancock following his resignation, Sajid Javid has promised no further lockdowns after “freedom day”.
After taking his new post, he told reporters he wanted to see restrictions lifted “as quickly as possible”, adding: “It’s going to be irreversible, there’s no going back. That’s why we want to be careful during that process.”
In his announcement on 5 July, Boris Johnson warned the pandemic is “far from over.”
“There comes a point after so many have been vaccinated when further restrictions no longer prevent hospitalisations and deaths but simply delay the inevitable.”
Talking about his future plans at the time for Freedom Day, he said “So we have to ask ourselves the question: if not now, when?”