Boris Johnson has unveiled a five-point plan for the country to start “living with Covid” and confirmed that all legal coronavirus restrictions including mask-wearing, social distancing and nightclub closures will end at Step 4 of the Government’s plan to ease England’s lockdown
The Prime Minister led a Downing Street press conference on Monday afternoon two week ahead of July 19 when stage four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown is expected to go ahead.
Boris Johnson said we must “balance the risk” of the disease from the virus and the harm from continuing with legal restrictions which “inevitably take their toll on people’s lives and livelihoods, on people’s health and mental health”.
He added: “And we must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer, and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves ‘when will we be able to return to normal?’
“And to those who say we should delay again – the alternative to that is to open up in winter when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.”
Despite the positive news concerning the end of lockdown, Mr Johnson was eager to stress that the coronavirus pandemic is “far from over”
He told the Downing Street press conference: “We’re seeing rising hospital admissions and we must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid.
“In these circumstances we must take a careful and a balanced decision. And there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”
He said the expectation remains that by July 19 every adult in the UK will have had the offer of a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and two-thirds will have had a second dose.
The Prime Minister outlined a number of restrictions are to be eased.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “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.”
Under the Prime Minister’s plan for Step 4 of the road map:
– There will be no limits on social contact, meaning the end of the orders such as the “rule of six” and restrictions on guests at weddings and mourners at funerals.
– Legal requirement to wear face coverings will be lifted, although guidance will suggest people might choose to do so in “enclosed and crowded places”.
– All remaining businesses will be able to reopen, including nightclubs, while capacity caps will be lifted and bars and restaurants will no longer be restricted to table service.
– The Government will no longer instruct people to work from home.
– The “one metre plus” rule on social distancing will be lifted except in specific circumstances such as at the border, where guidance will remain to keep passengers from red and amber list countries from mingling with other travellers.
– The limit on named care home visitors will be lifted but infection control measures will remain in place.
– 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.
– The gap between vaccine doses for under-40s will be reduced from 12 weeks to eight, meaning that all adults will have the opportunity to be double-jabbed by mid-September.
Although the legal requirement to self-isolate will remain for people who have tested positive or been identified as a contact by NHS Test and Trace, Mr Johnson wants contacts who are fully vaccinated to be exempt and the Government will set out further details in due course.