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’.
But the Government has been accused of delaying "Freedom Day" after revealing that fully vaccinated people will still have to follow self-isolation rules until August 16.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, announced on July 6 that plans to allow Britons who had received both vaccine doses to take an optional PCR test if they came into close contact with a confirmed Covid case, rather than isolating for 10 days, would not be introduced for five and a half weeks.
The Prime Minister said on July 8 that he understands the public’s frustrations about self-isolating after contact with a positive case, but added that August 16 is "not too far off" for those who are double jabbed.
Meanwhile, hopes for a holiday abroad have been reignited after Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, confirmed that fully vaccinated adults returning from amber list countries will not need to quarantine from July 19, although they will still need to pay for tests.
Read more: What does the latest travel announcement mean for my holiday?
Despite the positive news, Javid also warned there could be 100,000 cases a day by the summer, something which free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute predicted would result in 3.5 million people a week being forced to self-isolate.
However, Javid said the Government was "very comfortable" with the timetable for easing restrictions as he argued that keeping lockdown measures would risk adding to winter pressures on the NHS.
It comes as more than 100 scientists and doctors have signed a letter to The Lancet on July 8 accusing the Government of conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” and urging it to reconsider its plans to abandon all coronavirus restrictions.
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 so far:
Lockdown rules banner – Masks
Legal regulations requiring 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". As part of the guidelines, individuals will be encouraged to carry masks in case the precaution is required by a venue.
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."
But one of Britain’s top scientists has argued that we should continue to wear our masks indoors as a mark of respect to colleagues.
Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate and director of the Francis Crick Institute, agreed that the right balance to strike was for the Government to open up society on July 19 but for people to wear face coverings in indoor settings and on public transport.
"Just going sort of rather gung-ho, opening up completely – a problem with that is, is that isn’t just you. You have to respect the your colleagues, and I think just relying on… individual judgement of what they should be doing – they may just think too much about themselves and not about the people that they could potentially infect", he said.
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. Venues may also continue to ask customers to scan a QR code when entering the premises.
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
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.
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, also confirmed plans on July 6 to end bubbles on July 19, and said from August 16, only children who test positive for Covid-19 will need to self isolate.
This means an entire class or year group would not need to be sent home for 10 days each time a pupil in their cohort tested positive.
"Children are better off in their classroom, with their friends and teachers," he added, noting that "they have given up so much to keep the older generation safe".
He said the "greatest single act" to help children’s mental health was to get them back to school in March, and that school bubbles are "causing disruption to many children’s education" and will be scrapped and replaced with contact tracing, with staggered start times also to be removed.
He added that fully-vaccinated teachers "will be able to remain in the classroom from the autumn term" and can also avoid self-isolation.
But detailed guidance published on July 6 by the Department for Education (DfE) said schools "may wish" to continue with bubbles until the end of the summer term.
It also said it "may become necessary to reintroduce bubbles" for a temporary period if there is a Covid outbreak. Schools are told to contact their local public health teams to report a potential outbreak if they have several confirmed cases within 14 days.
It comes as pupils have missed out on more than half of classroom time during the pandemic, a major study has found, amid calls to allow them the option to repeat the entire school year.
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.
But in more positive news, Grant Shapps has announced that from July 19 fully inoculated travellers can avoid quarantine measures post-holiday. Mr Shapps also said under-18s will also be exempted from the requirement.
But he added that travellers will still be required to take tests, saying: "They’ll still be required to take a test three days before returning, the pre-departure test, demonstrating they’re negative before they travel, and a PCR test on or before day two, but they will no longer be required to take a day eight test."
Read more: The hidden perils of ‘amber list’ travel
The Transport Secretary said that in essence, this meant that for fully vaccinated travellers the requirements for green and amber list countries would be the same.
"To be clear, a full vaccination means 14 days have passed since your final dose of the vaccine, and it’s also important to note that health matters are devolved, so decision-making and implementation may differ across the UK administrations and we’ll continue to work with the devolved administrations to ensure we achieve our shared objectives of safe, sustainable and robust return to international travel", he said.
Passengers will have to prove their vaccine status through the Covid pass – available on the main NHS app – or the "accessible letter" if people do not have access to a smart phone. They will also have to put this on their passenger locator form.
More than 30 countries recognise the vaccine status pass, according to Mr Shapps says.
Read more: How to show proof of a Covid vaccine in order to travel abroad
Meanwhile fully vaccinated holidaymakers are to get fast-track lanes at Heathrow under plans to open up quarantine-free foreign travel to amber list countries.
They will digitally upload their vaccination certificates in advance of their flight before presenting them on arrival and being directed to separate lanes at immigration to fast-track them through border controls and prevent queues.
British Airways, Virgin and Heathrow will launch the trial scheme by the weekend.
Germany has also lifted its travel ban on passengers arriving from the UK, paving the way for summer holidays to the country for those who have been double vaccinated.
The UK will now move into the second-highest category of "high-incidence area", meaning arrivals to Germany can avoid quarantine if they can prove that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.
Those who have not received both vaccinations can cut short a mandatory 10-day quarantine by testing negative after five days.
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".