ENGLAND IS set to do away with social distancing and mask wearing rules on 19 July, Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday.
In a matter of weeks, people in England will no longer have to wear face masks either in indoor public spaces such as shops and cafés, or on crowded public transport including the tube-- however people will be asked to make their own personal judgement as to where it would be smart to wear a mask to protect others.
The one metre plus social distancing rule is also expected to be scrapped, with no legal limits on the number of people gathering indoors and outdoors, and festivals and nightclubs will be given the green light to return, with concerts, sports events and theatres going ahead at full capacity.
It will no longer be mandatory for people to have to sign in using QR codes or the NHS Test and Trace app when visiting a restaurant or bar, however it will be left to the business's discretion if they wish to carry on with this or ask people to show a negative Covid-19 status on the NHS app before gaining entry.
There will also be no limit to the number of named visitors to care homes, and businesses can begin asking employees to return to the office.
However, while restrictions will be almost fully removed, laws around isolating if you are positive for Covid-19 or a close contact of someone who has tested positive will remain, "but we are looking to move to a different regime for fully vaccinated contacts of those testing positive, and also for children", and controversial 'school bubbles' are likely to be removed by school's return in September.
Travel to 'red list' countries will still be off the cards, but the British government is due to talk to the travel industry on changing the law to allow fully vaccinated people to travel to amber list countries without having to quarantine on their return home.
Mr Johnson's announcement yesterday was extremely ambitious but not necessarily optimistic; he warned before laying out the plan that cases are rising and will continue to rise, with an expectation of around 50,000 cases per day by 19 July, and hospital admissions are also beginning to rise.
However, he said, "we must take a careful and balanced decision", and if it wasn't for the success of the vaccine rollout, the UK would likely be preparing to lock down again.
The big reopening had been first set for 21 June, but was pushed to 19 July to examine the data and link between the rise in cases and any rise in hospitalisations and deaths, "and as the days have gone by it has grown ever clearer that these vaccines are indeed successful with the majority of those admitted to hospital unvaccinated".
Mr Johnson said an official decision will be made on 12 July, but said it is time to "balance the risks" between the disease and the effect restrictions have on the economy, health and mental health.
He added: "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 is to open up in the winter when the virus will have an advantage or not at all this year."
While the country is eager to get back to normality, the scrapping of mandatory face coverings even on crowded public transport has caused concern,and both Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Witty said they would continue to wear a face covering in a crowded place, if asked to do so by authorities, or if not wearing a mask made another person uncomfortable.
The Prime Minister said they will continue to monitor the data "and retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods, such as the winter.
"But we will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid re-imposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring."
Mr Johnson finished by paying tribute to the NHS on its 73rd year in operation, and said "the best thing we can do to repay their courage and dedication right now is protect ourselves and others and to get those jabs whenever our turn comes."
Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland will decide their own reopening plan and are not held to the pans set out by Mr Johnson yesterday.