Have your say: When will England's remaining COVID restrictions be lifted?

·3-min read

Since March 2020, government rules such as social distancing have been restricting freedoms that Britons previously took for granted.

As part of the gradual relaxation of the rules that has been implemented over the past few months as part of Boris Johnson’s "roadmap", Monday 21 June was set as the date for life to return to "normal" in England.

However, last week the PM announced a four-week delay to the final stage of his roadmap due to a rapid increase in coronavirus infection numbers connected to the Delta variant of the virus.

According to government data published on Friday, the variant, which originated in India, now accounts for 99% of new coronavirus infections in England.

Johnson's decision to delay the end of restrictions came after he was warned that lifting them too early could lead to thousands of deaths and unbearable pressure on the NHS.

Experts feared going ahead as planned could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of COVID-19.

To avert this, Johnson said it was “sensible to wait just a little longer” and put back the end of all legal limits on social contact to 19 July, adding he was “confident” no further delay would be necessary.

He left open the option of ending restrictions on 5 July if the data proves drastically better than expected, but conceded “let’s be realistic, probably more likely four weeks”.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic during a virtual press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on June 14, 2021. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a four-week delay to the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions for England due to a surge of infections caused by the Delta variant. (Photo by Jonathan Buckmaster / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN BUCKMASTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson delayed so-called 'Freedom Day' by up to four weeks to ensure the effects of the Delta variant could be managed. (Jonathan Buckmaster/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman walks past an information sign amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bolton, Britain, May 17, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble
The Delta variant now accounts for 99% of new coronavirus infections in England (Reuters/Phil Noble)

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

However, on Monday 21 June itself – the day previously labelled Freedom Day by some – Professor Brendan Wren, head of vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Sky News there was "great hope" of bringing the date forward to 5 July.

Asked whether the success of the vaccine programme meant England will not need to wait until 19 July to fully open up, he said: "We'd still need to be vigilant – but vigilance and vaccination are the two words.

"So, I think if the numbers continue to be promising then I think there's great hope we could open up on 5 July."

But business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he would "err on the side of caution" and "look to 19 July".

Also speaking to Sky News, Kwarteng said: "It could be before but I think that is unlikely. Generally we have stuck to the dates we have set.

"I think now I am very focused on 19 July."

A limited easing of certain restrictions is taking place on Monday as planned, including the lifting of the 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions and wakes, with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.

Care home residents are also now permitted to stay overnight with friends and family without needing to quarantine for 14 days on return to their residences.

Watch: Robert Buckland announces easing of restrictions for weddings