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05th Jul 2021

Boris Johnson confirms end of social distancing and face mask rules on July 19

Danny Jones

‘Freedom Day’ goes ahead on July 19th and all social distancing rules, including face masks, will end

Boris Johnson has announced that all coronavirus restrictions, including social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks in public spaces such as on transports and in shops, will officially end on July 19th.

“Step four” of lockdown ending is scheduled to start moving on July 12th and while the Prime Minister was cautious to remind people that the pandemic is not yet over, he said that the vaccine rollout has allowed for these revisions to be made.

The PM stated that the government are committed to going ahead with July 19th in the belief that “every adult will have had a first dose of the vaccine and two thirds will have had a second”.

Here are the standout changes from his “five-point plan”:

  • The government will reinforce vaccinations by reducing the interval between the first and second dose of the vaccine – down from 12 weeks to eight, meaning that all adults will have the opportunity to be double-jabbed by mid-September.
  • Move away from “legal restrictions”, meaning no limits on social contact, the end of the orders such as the“rule of six” and restrictions on guests at weddings and mourners at funerals.
  • Removal of all legal limits on indoors and outdoors meetings, including the limit on named care home visitors being lifted, though infection control measures will remain in place.
  • End of the one-metre social distancing rule, 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.
  • No legal obligation to wear face-covering, though people are encouraged to follow the guidance in “enclosed and crowded places” where necessary.
  • 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.
  • Employers no longer have to recommend that employees work from home.
  • No Covid certificates/domestic ‘vaccine passports’ – although firms will be able to voluntarily use the system for attending events.
  • Gov will continue to manage the virus with a “test, trace and isolate system” and self-isolation for a minimum of 10 days will still be in place if you contract the virus.
  • Red list for foreign travel remains but fully vaccinated adults do not need to isolate upon their return.

This marks the conclusion of nearly 18 months of ‘lockdown’ as we know it. Face coverings had been a specific point of contention among the general public – a recent YouGov poll surveyed Brits to see their thoughts on whether masks should stay or go.

Colloquially referred to as ‘Freedom Day‘, the final relaxation of Covid and lockdown restrictions was ultimately delayed from the initially scheduled date of June 21st following the previous phase of easing and after a surge in cases of the highly-transmissible Delta variant.

In the build-up before the presser, Labour MP and Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, argued that these changes and relaxations could be seen as a step too far. Burnham said that those who are immunocompromised may not feel comfortable giving up their face masks and suggested “why not wait until all under 18s are double-jabbed”?

Johson’s press conference features the usual updates from Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, who both advised caution while reminding people of the ongoing number of cases and the likelihood that deaths will increase over the coming weeks.

Whitty also echoed the PM’s statement that things are likely to get tougher come the winter and that this factored into the government’s decision to end lockdown now rather than in a season why protecting people from and fighting the virus will be more difficult.

There were several questions from journalists asking whether the challenges of combatting Covid in the winter could see lockdown and quarantine restrictions return, which Johnson, Whitty and Valance said is unlikely unless a new virus or particularly dangerous variant arises.

More to follow…