Just what exactly Freedom Day on July 19 will look like has become a lot clearer after Boris Johnson gave an update on the easing of coronavirus restrictions in England.
The announcement set out preparations for the eventual unlocking on July 19. Current restrictions dictate gatherings of only six indoors, no more than 30 for gatherings outside, one-metre social distancing in pubs, a ban on nightclubs and compulsory face masks in place.
July 19 will see these restrictions removed – yet both the public and businesses are urged to apply ‘common sense’.
Originally, June 21 had been marked as Freedom Day, but the lockdown roadmap was extended in England by a further four weeks to control the spread of the delta variant in June.
This is what has been announced:
Lockdown rules banner – Masks
Legal regulations forcing Britons to wear face masks indoors are set to be scrapped from July 19, but businesses can set the rules on their own premises, Boris Johnson announced on July 5.
The Prime Minister declared that at the end of his roadmap out of restrictions, face coverings will no longer be mandatory under the law but individuals will instead be encouraged to "exercise judgement".
Permission will be handed to transport operators and shops to decide their own policy on the issue, setting conditions for their own premises while remaining mindful of equality law.
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "The legal requirement for face coverings will be removed, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, such as in enclosed and crowded spaces."
Government advice is expected to stress that wearing a mask can reduce a person’s risk of catching coronavirus, as well as reducing that person’s risk of spreading it, in crowded settings where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet.
However, it will be up to individuals to decide whether to wear a mask, with ministers emphasising a move away from top down edicts to personal responsibility at this stage of the pandemic.
Work from home rule
Lockdown rules banner – WFH
Employees will no longer be told to work at home, with Boris Johnson on July 5 giving the green light to employers to start preparing plans for a return to the office.
However, Mr Johnson stopped short of urging people to return to the office, following reports that he had been advised against doing so by his scientific and medical advisers.
The Government will also be replacing the sector-by-sector guidance on Covid-secure workplaces with simpler advice. It will form part of the health and safety regime that existed for workplaces prior to the pandemic.
It is understood that firms will be given the power to decide whether they continue to space out desks, as well as using mitigations such as perspex screens.
Ministers are exploring ways of giving workers more rights to work flexibly, but this is not expected to extend to a legal right to work from home.
With millions of workers now adjusted to remote working, demands from employers for them to return to the office five days a week is likely to lead to tensions and could even trigger a wave of legal challenges.
In particular, there are concerns over whether medically vulnerable people could be forced to return to the office against their will.
It comes as 50 business leaders including BT, Capita, Heathrow and Gatwick chief executives urged ministers to end working from home as the default position to "set the country clearly on the path to recovery" by encouraging people to return to the office.
Lockdown rules banner – social distancing
The legal requirement to socially distance will be abolished under step four of the roadmap, with caps on the size of gatherings indoors and outdoors also ending.
As part of the "big bang" lifting of virtually all remaining Covid-19 restrictions, regulations on social mixing will fall away, with people instead asked to use their own common sense.
The decision to drop the one-metre plus rule follows the completion of the Government’s review of social distancing measures.
However, guidance on social distancing will remain in force for people who are required to self-isolate after contracting Covid-19 in order to minimise the risks of transmission from those who test positive.
The guidance will also apply in airports and other ports of entry. This is to limit the chance of variants of concern spreading from passengers arriving in the UK from amber and red list countries.
It is understood that businesses that wish to continue with social distancing, such as shops and hospitality venues, will be permitted to do so.
Covid rules from July 19
As part of step four, expected to take place on July 19, the rule of six indoors will be lifted, meaning people will be able to visit family and friends at home in unlimited numbers, as well as at restaurants and other hospitality venues.
There will no longer be limits for attendees at life events, such as weddings and funerals, and nightclubs, which have remained shut throughout the pandemic, will finally be able to reopen.
The same applies to theatres, cinemas and other entertainment venues, many of which have remained closed, despite being able to open, because tight caps on audience numbers have made reopening economically unviable.
Festivals will also be able to resume, while football and other sports stadiums will also return to full capacity.
The legal limits on outdoor gatherings will also be lifted, meaning groups meeting in parks and on beaches, in beer gardens and other settings will no longer be capped at 30.
Fans attending sports matches and concerts will not have to present a Covid certificate proving they have tested negative for the virus or received a vaccine.
So-called "vaccine passports" were trialled by the Government’s events research programme, which allowed fans to use an app to show they were not infectious before attending large scale events.
The event trials include this summer’s Euro 2020 matches at Wembley Stadium and the men and women’s singles finals at Wimbledon.
A Whitehall review of Covid certificates, overseen by Michael Gove, has concluded that they will not be needed for large events when they can go ahead from July 19.
Some form of Covid certificate is still expected to be needed for international travel because they will be required by other countries to travel overseas.
The Prime Minister announced a further relaxation of restrictions on care home residents and visits. It follows June’s decision to permit overnight stays as part of an easing of visiting restrictions.
Residents were previously only allowed to leave care homes for a visit if outdoors or for high-priority reasons, such as a dental or GP appointment. They will now be able to do so for more social reasons without having to isolate.
Lockdown rules banner – Isolation
An update on school bubbles is expected on Tuesday, July 6, when Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, addresses the Commons in the afternoon. At the press conference on July 5, Boris Johnson confirmed that Step 4 of the easing of lockdown restrictions, on July 19, would include the removal of school safety measures such as bubbles.
The Telegraph has already been passed details of a paper submitted to the Covid Operations Cabinet committee that discussed plans for schools.
One proposed change was for the requirement for schools to send home "bubbles" of students to be ditched from July 19.
Another was to end pupils self-isolating if they are flagged for coming into contact with someone with Covid from the autumn term, replaced by a system of daily tests.
A third was to continue the twice-weekly testing of all secondary pupils during term time until the end of September but then hold a review, meaning the arrangement could be scrapped by October.
The other elements were a renewed drive to vaccinate teachers and a "return to the full school day" from September, with only a positive PCR test keeping children stuck at home.
Lockdown rules banner – Travel
The current travel restrictions are on a different roadmap, so there were not expected to be changes announced to the red, amber and green lists.
Travel across Europe remains restricted. Although the UK gave Malta the green light for travellers, the country will now refuse entry to Britons who are not fully inoculated.
In Spain, tourists from the UK will need to prove they’ve had both doses of the vaccine or a negative PCR test upon arrival.
While Portugal remains on the amber list for travel, the country will now be requiring travellers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival unless they can prove they received their second dose of the vaccine a fortnight prior to their visit.
The Prime Minister said on June 21 that Britons faced a "difficult year for travel" regardless of whether he pressed ahead with plans to scrap travel quarantine rules for double-jabbed Britons.
But in more positive news, Angela Merkel said Germany will soon relax quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated Britons.
Speaking at a press conference with Boris Johnson on July 2, the German chancellor said: "In the foreseeable future, those who have had double-jabs will be able to travel again without quarantine."
Travel countries on the red, green and amber list
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister added that there is "no reason" why Britons would be excluded from the EU’s travel passport scheme because they had received AstraZeneca Covid-19 doses made in India. Mr Johnson said he was "very confident" the issue would not be a problem.
This comes amid reports that up to five million Britons who had received certain doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – identifiable by the batch numbers 4120Z001, 4120Z002 and 4120Z003 – could be locked out of European countries because their vaccine was not recognised by the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate scheme.
Madeira announced on July 4 that the Portuguese island would accept all worldwide vaccines – regardless of whether they have been accepted by the European Medicines Agency.
The European Commission also said it is working to allow acceptance of the vaccines and is "in discussion with the member states to see which is the best approach to follow".