Boris Johnson is set to give a 5pm press conference (Image: Getty Images)

Get UK politics insight with our free daily email briefing straight to your inbox

Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice

Boris Johnson will give a Downing Street press conference at 5pm on his plans to axe the vast majority of England's Covid restrictions on July 19.

Despite cases surging above 20,000 a day, the Prime Minister will plough ahead with 'Freedom Day', claiming the link between infection and death is weakened.

He is expected to end laws on social distancing and replace them with voluntary guidance. He will signal that formal advice to work from home will end and set out the next steps for care home visits.

The plans for the long-delayed "step four" of England's roadmap would be outlined today and given final confirmation on July 12.

But there are a string of issues which look set to be unresolved today and could still be hanging over the Prime Minister into next week.

Meanwhile, his plans to end the legal need for face masks on public transport has prompted fury from unions and disability groups, who say it'll hit the vulnerable.

Read More
Related Articles

  • Boris Johnson to announce end of social distancing and face mask rules today

Read More
Related Articles

  • Scientists slam 'bonkers' government lockdown plans after Covid likened to flu

Ministers are planning to get rid of the order for masks despite the fact they're designed to protect people around the wearer – not the wearer themselves.

The PM said: "As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgement when going about our lives."

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick added: "It will be a different phase because we’re going to move away from the state telling you what to do, with very restrictive rules and laws, to us all exercising our own good judgment and personal choice."

But SAGE sub-group member Prof Stephen Reicher urged "support and proportionate mitigations to keep us safe" to continue.

SAGE member Prof Susan Michie added: "Allowing community transmission to surge is like building new 'variant factories' at a very fast rate."

So what is the PM set to announce? Here's what we know or believe so far.

Things Boris Johnson is likely to announce Face masks

Mr Johnson is expected to announce that on July 19 mask-wearing will become voluntary everywhere apart from hospitals, GPs surgeries and care homes.

Reports suggest you won't be forced to wear a mask in public transport or shops, with £200 fines for law-breakers axed. But you may still be advised to wear masks in crowded enclosed spaces.

This has already provoked a furious backlash – because masks protect people around the wearer more than the actual wearer, so it's not just a personal choice.

The mask mandate looks set to be axed on public transport, but guidance would remain
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Transport for London could for example make mask-wearing a condition of carriage on the Tube, even if it is not forced by central government. A spokesperson for London mayor Sadiq Khan said it was vital that people "feel confident" that they can travel safely on public transport.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: "I struggle to see how ministers can drop the requirement to wear masks on public transport without causing real problems for some people who are dependent on it. Those more vulnerable to infection or anxious about it will be put in a very unfair position."

Trade union Unite also called on ministers not to make face masks voluntary on trains and buses. "To end the requirement to wear masks on public transport would be an act of gross negligence by the Government," a spokesman said.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick joined Chancellor Rishi Sunak in suggesting he would stop wearing a face mask as soon as he was permitted to do so.

But Care minister Helen Whately said she might not ditch her mask “entirely” after July 19. “I anticipate there may be times where it is appropriate to wear it if I am somewhere that’s crowded, that might make sense." Asked if that would include a train she replied: "I think I might".

Read More
Related Articles

  • UK may get a double 'surge' of Covid and flu this winter, Tory minister admits

Read More
Related Articles

  • Six former Tory welfare chiefs demand Universal Credit cut is cancelled

Social distancing and the '1m+ rule'

Social distancing rules in pubs, restaurants and other public places look set to be dropped in England from July 19 in a bid to help the economy.

That would likely mean table services ends, and punters can once again queue at the bar and huddle on dance floors.

The rule of six indoors is the most likely thing to be lifted, with the rule of 30 outdoors also likely to go.

What's not fully known is whether there'll still be guidance advising people to stay apart from those outside their household, if they want to.

Social distancing rules have decimated the pub trade
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Working from home

Current government guidance says "everyone who can work from home must do so" and "if you cannot work from home, plan your journey to avoid crowds".

That guidance looks set to be dropped in England from July 19 – meaning staff could start returning to offices empty for more than a year.

However, reports suggest the government could stop short of actually advising staff they can return to the office. Instead, it may be left up to individual businesses and workers to make their own decision, amid fears mass commuting could fuel case rates.

Scanning QR codes at pubs

It's expected that customers will no longer be required to sign in using a QR code or to write down their personal details in pubs and restaurants.

While Test and Trace efforts look set to continue, this would scale back the field of contacts who get 'pinged' when someone who visited a bar tests positive.

However, venues will still be allowed to ask for details if they want.

Care home visits

Boris Johnson will provide an update on care home visits in England, after the rules were steadily relaxed piece-by-piece over the last few months.

Most care home residents can now finally make visits outside their care homes without having to isolate on return.

Currently every care home resident can nominate up to five ‘named visitors’ for regular visits, including an essential care-giver who can have closer contact. This may be relaxed.

However, Care Minister Helen Whately told Sky News: "I don't think visiting will completely go back to normal.

"There will still have to be some precautions. It's step by step, getting things as close to normal as we can, while still protecting people who are at greater risk from Covid."

Nicky Clough visits her mother Pam Harrison in her bedroom at Alexander House Care Home, London, back in March
(Image: REUTERS)

Nightclubs and mass events

One of the main elements of step four was to reopen nightclubs and mass events in England – like sports, gigs and theatre.

That would likely mean you could go to a stadium gig or a live theatre show with no social distancing in the crowd.

We can expect an update on this – which will be a particular relief to nightclubs, which have been shut continuously since March 2020.

But it seems efforts to protect punters by making them show a Covid status via a vaccine or testing passport have not come to pass…

Vaccine passports

Since Spring, the government has been working on a system of "Covid certification" for domestic venues and events.

This has been nicknamed a vaccine passport because you would show your vaccine status, or a recent negative test result, or evidence of a recent Covid infection, to get into a venue.

A long-awaited update on the plans will be delivered tonight – but the scheme looks set to be abandoned.

Ministers had said it was a fine balance between the human rights implications of making people show their status, and the amount it could protect society.

Things that could be left unresolved End of school bubbles

School bubbles are expected to end from the September term to cut down on the hundreds of thousands of pupils having to self-isolate.

But sources suggest there won't be a breakthrough on the details of this today.

End of self-isolation for the double-jabbed

The 10-day isolation for fully-vaccinated people who come into contact with an infected person is also set to end.

But we don't have a date of when this would happen, and it's thought the details are still being thrashed out.

Holidays for the double-jabbed

It's expected the government will let Brits travel to amber list countries without having to quarantine on their return, if they've had both doses of a vaccine.

But there's no date for this, despite rumours it could happen as early as the end of July, and it seems unlikely to be announced in full today.

Green list changes

The next round of updates to the quarantine-free 'green list' for foreign travel is due around July 19, but there's been no sign the PM will update this today.

How many deaths are deemed 'acceptable'

Stepping back, this is the biggest question and one No10 have refused to answer.

If the UK must learn to live with Covid like it does with flu, that means a number of deaths every year from the virus.

What number would be acceptable? Flu seasons can kill between around 8,000 and 20,000 per year. And care minister Helen Whately today said she is braced for a double "surge" of Covid and flu this winter.

It's not just about deaths, either. Hundreds of thousands have been decimated by 'long Covid' even if they didn't get seriously ill at the time. How many of those cases will be worth it to open up society?

There's either no number on it, or there is a number and they're not telling us what it is.