Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid made it clear on Monday that England is on track to fully reopen from Covid restrictions on July 19.

Mr Johnson gave his strongest indication yet that he would approve the final step of reopening for that date, saying it would soon be time to "go back to life as it was before Covid".

Mr Javid, in his first statement to the House of Commons since becoming Health Secretary, said he was "very confident" that the July 19 reopening would happen as planned.

He told MPs "freedoms" needed to be restored to the British people as soon as possible, vowing "not to wait a moment longer than we need to".

It means that – barring a major deterioration in the data on Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths – a major lifting of rules will take place in less than three weeks in England.

Rules limiting indoor gatherings to six people or two households, legally requiring the wearing of masks, and forcing pubs and restaurants to do table service are set to be relaxed.

During his Commons statement, Mr Javid, who replaced Matt Hancock after his resignation over an affair with an aide, also hinted at changing other Covid guidance. The new Health Secretary said he wanted to alter the rules "as soon as possible" to allow group singing in churches.

Mr Johnson made his comments on reopening during a visit to the constituency of Batley and Spen ahead of the by-election there on Thursday.

He said: "I think with every day that goes by, it’s clearer to me and to all our advisers, all our scientific advisers, that we’re very likely to be in a position on July 19 to say that that really is the terminus and we can go back to life as it was before Covid as far as possible."

Mr Javid appeared to indicate that he would oppose a fourth national lockdown this autumn or winter when answering questions about the forthcoming reopening .

"It’s going to be irreversible. There’s no going back," he said in an interview with a TV reporter on Monday. He went further in the Commons, telling MPs: "We also know that people and businesses need certainty, so we want every step to be irreversible. And make no mistake, the restrictions on our freedom, they must come to an end.

"We owe it to the British people, who have sacrificed so much, to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can and not to wait a moment longer than we need to. With the numbers heading in the right direction, all while we protect more and more people each day, July 19 remains our target date.

"The Prime Minister has called it our ‘terminus date’. For me, July 19 is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country."

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On the return of church singing, Mr Javid said: "That is certainly what I would like to see and that is certainly my intention, to allow that as soon as possible.”"

The comments confirm briefings over the weekend that Mr Javid will put more emphasis on easing Covid restrictions than his predecessor, Mr Hancock. The former Chancellor is said by friends to be mindful of the burden lockdowns have placed on the British public, both financially and in terms of knock-on impacts on mental health.

However, one source close to Mr Javid stressed he was not a lockdown sceptic, stressing that he had not opposed the initial lockdowns brought in by Mr Johnson’s administration.

Mr Javid also stressed he wanted to see a "sustainable" solution to the social care crisis facing Britain, in an apparent attempt to ensure the Treasury agrees proper funding for whatever is agreed. He vowed to work with other political parties on the long-awaited reforms, promised by Mr Johnson two years ago, in an attempt to secure bipartisan support.