The lifting of restrictions in England will go ahead on 19 July as planned, Boris Johnson has confirmed.
Speaking at a government press conference this evening, the Prime Minister said that “now is the right moment” to end the current restrictions, despite concerns over the third wave.
‘Proceed with caution’
The success of the vaccine rollout so far means that we can lift restrictions next week as planned, he said.
But, Johnson said, it is “absolutely vital that we proceed with caution”.
Some people have expressed concerns about lifting the remaining restrictions all in one go as the number of cases is increasing significantly due to the Delta variant.
However, the Prime Minister has defended the move, saying that now is the optimum time to lift the restrictions.
Johnson argued that delaying the reopening would mean lifting restrictions as the weather begins to get colder, giving the virus “greater advantage”.
He also said that this would be the best time to lift restrictions because children not being in school would provide a “natural firebreak”.
He said: “I can’t say it powerfully or emphatically enough: this pandemic is not over. This disease continues to carry risks for you and your family.
“We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday July 19 to life as it was before Covid.
"We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don't normally meet, such as on public transport."
“We know we will see more hospitalisations and more deaths from Covid.”
Although, he said, we are currently in the “middle range” of the scientists’ modelling for levels of infection and in the “low range” for deaths.
Face-masks and social distancing
The Prime Minister stressed that, although they will not be required by law, people should continue to wear face-masks in confined spaces and when mixing with other people indoors.
Regional leaders could still mandate the use of face masks on public transport in some parts of the country, such as in London or Greater Manchester.
The legal requirements around social distancing will be dropped, meaning the rule of six and the 1m+ rule will no longer apply.
There will still be guidance on social distancing in certain circumstances or situations, including in airports or ports of entry, or when someone is Covid positive or self-isolating.
Returning to work
The government has now updated its guidance on working from home, meaning that there is no formal requirement that those who can work from home should.
However, Johnson said that further guidance will be published on how employers can bring staff back into offices in a safe way over the summer.
He also said that while the guidance will change from Monday, it is not expected that all staff will return to offices on that day.
The plan to allow nightclubs to reopen will go ahead, although many venues will likely require proof of vaccination or a negative test on entry.
Johnson urged nightclubs to use the NHS Covid pass to decide whether or not to let people in.
During today’s press conference Johnson did not offer much detail on whether changes to the UK’s travel policy will change.
He did say that the current “tough” border policy will remain for the time being, with those returning from red-list countries asking to quarantine.
Johnson also said that the test, trace and isolate system will remain in place.
Extremely clinically vulnerable
The Prime Minister said that everyone should “keep thinking of others” and “consider the risks.
He said that further guidance will be released for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable on how best to stay safe following the lifting of restrictions.