England primed to ‘return to normality’ on July 19 with restrictions rolled back

·2-min read
Social distancing restrictions will be 'rolled back' this month (PA Wire)
Social distancing restrictions will be 'rolled back' this month (PA Wire)

Life will “return to normality as far as possible” after July 19 in England as the country moves into the “final furlong” of coronavirus restrictions, a senior Government minister has said.

Rumours were abound in the Sunday newspapers that Boris Johnson who is due to update the nation this week on plans for unlocking, is due to scrap social distancing and mask-wearing requirements on so-called “Freedom Day”.

Communities Secretary appeared to all but confirm those reports as he said the impact of the vaccine on preventing serious illness meant it was time to “roll back” the “difficult” restrictions that have been in place for the past 16 months.

Robert Jenrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It does look as if, thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, that we now have the scope to roll back those restrictions and return to normality as far as possible.”

According to The Sunday Times, mask wearing will become voluntary in all settings and the one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues will end, meaning a return to drinking at the bar without the requirement for table service.

Mass events, including festivals, will also be allowed under the proposals for the final stage of the road map out of lockdown, the paper said.

 (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Cabinet minister Mr Jenrick said that, although cases were rising, they had not translated into “serious illness and death”, allowing the Government to be “positive” about unlocking on July 19.

“It does feel as if we are now in the final furlong, in a period in which we can start to live with the virus and move on with our lives,” he said.

Mr Jenrick – who pledged to get rid of his face covering when permitted – said the “State won’t be telling you what to do” as ministers look to move from legal enforcement to personal choice, with people exercising their own judgment on whether or not to carry on wearing masks.

The onus instead will be on ensuring that “every adult gets fully vaccinated” to guard against rising hospital admissions and deaths, he told the Sky News programme Trevor Phillips On Sunday.

Professor Stephen Powis national medical director of NHS England, backed up the minister’s assessment of the impact vaccines were having on guarding against the virus.

He told Marr that Public Health England had found vaccines were affording “over 90% protection against severe disease”, in a result that meant fewer sufferers were requiring hospital treatment.

“So the link is not totally broken, but it’s severely weakened,” Prof Powis added, as he urged the public to keep up the habits adopted during the pandemic, such as washing hands more frequently and not going into work if feeling unwell.

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