Boris Johnson confirms mask rules and social distancing scrapped for ‘freedom day’ set to be on July 19

Mask rules will be ditched, social distancing scrapped and nightclubs will be able to throw open their doors in two weeks, Boris Johnson has announced.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the so-called “Freedom Day” is on track to go ahead on July 19 during a press conference at a Downing Street on Monday.

There will be no fines for not wearing masks or parties, an end to the table service requirement in pubs and the order to work from home will be dropped.

Fans will be able to return to stadiums at capacity as caps are lifted and big events will also be able to return, including packed houses at theatres.

Announcing the changes Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pandemic is “far from over” and will not be over by July 19, with a potential 50,000 cases detected a day by that date.

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.

In a bid to ensure they can meet the target date, the Government is accelerating the vaccine rollout by reducing the vaccine dose interval for under 40s, from 12 weeks to eight. This will mean every adult has the chance to be double jabbed by mid-September or fully vaccinated.

Changes from July 19 include:

* End to limits on social contact. No gathering offences or restrictions on attendees of life events.

* All remaining businesses will be able to reopen, including nightclubs.

* Fans will be able to return to major sporting events as all venue capacity caps are lifted.

* End to social distancing. One-metre plus rule will be lifted, other than in specific places e.g. at borders.

* Face masks will no longer be compulsory by law. Although guidance will advise you to choose to wear one in some settings, such as enclosed crowded places.

* “Work from home” guidance ends.

* Seating and table service rules on pubs, restaurants and bars lifted.

*Limit on named visitors for care home residents lifted. Although infection control measures will have to remain in place.

* No domestic vaccine passports. Although businesses will be able to voluntarily adopt certification via the NHS app.

* Church congregations and choirs can sing freely again.

* The limit of five named visitors to people in care homes is dropped. Guidance will set out how PPE should be used to mitigate risks.

* Social distancing will not be needed except in ports of entry, like airports, to ensure travellers from Red and Amber zones do not have close contact with those from Green list countries. Masks will not be required by law during flights, though airlines are free to impose them as a condition of travel.

* Perspex screen can be torn down in many settings if firms decide they are not needed. Current regulations requiring them will be replaced by shorter health and safety guidelines.

The changes mark step four of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown and will come into force on Monday July 19 as long as the government’s four tests for easing restrictions are met. A final decision is expected to be confirmed on Monday July 12 after a review of the latest data.

It will remain a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive, or asked to do so by NHS test and trace.

However, the Prime Minister signalled his intention to allow double vaccinated people identified as contacts to be exempt from isolation requirements.

People who are clinically vulnerable and those who have not had a second vaccine dose will be expected to take a view of the risks they face in any circumstances. The same goes for those who are unable to have the vaccine.

Although it will no longer be mandatory for pubs to make customers supply test and trace contact data, the Government anticipates that many premises will keep displaying QR codes and for many people to continue scanning them.

The Government is also working with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate from an amber country.

It is also expected that the Education Secretary will set out further plans for school bubbles later this week.

Mr Johnson said that even after the removal of the legal requirement to wear a face covering, he would continue to wear one himself in crowded places “as a courtesy”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “lifting all protections in one go, when the infection rate is going up, is reckless”.

“A balanced approach or proper plan would say keep protections,” he added, suggesting the use of masks in enclosed spaces and on public transport.

Speaking alongside Mr Johnson, England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty outlined the three scenarios where he would continue to wear a face covering in the context of rising case numbers.

“The first is any situation which is indoors, crowded, or indoors with close proximity with other people... the second situation I’d do it is if I was required to by any competent authority... and the third reason is if someone else was uncomfortable if I did not wear a mask,” he said.

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