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Will social distancing end on July 19? The latest Covid rules explained
5 July 2021, 18:06 | Updated: 5 July 2021, 18:19
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the latest easing of lockdown restrictions today, ahead of 'Freedom Day' on July 19.
Speaking at today's press conference from Downing Street, the Prime Minister announced the latest updates on everything from social distancing, to rules around face masks and Covid-19 travel restrictions.
In his announcement, Mr Johnson said: "As we come to the fourth step [of the roadmap], we have to balance the risks - the risks of the disease which the vaccines have reduced but very far from eliminated, and the risks of continuing with legally enforced restrictions that inevitably take their toll on people's lives and livelihoods, and on people's health and mental health... if we can't open our society in the next few weeks... then we must ask ourselves, when will we be able to return to normal?"
He also added: "We will change the basic tools that we have used to control human behaviour.
"We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus."
So, what will the new rules around social distancing be come July 19? Here's the lowdown...
What are the new social distancing rules in England?
If so-called 'Freedom Day' goes ahead on July 19, the public will be allowed to meet in groups of any size both indoors and outdoors, and will no longer be required to social distance from one another.
Mr Johnson said: "We will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors... We will end the one metre plus rule on social distancing."
He also confirmed that caps on numbers at mass events will be lifted, and businesses such as nightclubs, which have been shut since the start of the pandemic, will reopen.
"We will allow all businesses to reopen, including nightclubs," he said.
"We will lift the limit on named visitors to care homes and on numbers of people attending concerts, theatre and sports events."
He also clarified the Government's position on vaccine passports, saying: "There will be no Covid certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event, although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification and the NHS app gives you a Covid pass as one way to show your Covid status."
What else did the Prime Minister announce at the press briefing?
In addition to outlining the new rules around social distancing, Mr Johnson stated that as of July 19, the "legal obligation to wear a face covering" will also be removed, although he conceded that "guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising and where you come into contact with people you don't normally meet in enclosed spaces such as obviously crowded public transport."
He also said that the Government instruction for people to work from home where possible would be removed.
"It will no longer be necessary for the Government to instruct people to work from home," he said.
"Employers will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace."
He also said that the Government would "reinforce" the "vaccine wall" by reducing the time between doses for under 40s from 12 weeks to eight weeks, so that all adults can be double jabbed by the middle of September.
This is in addition to a booster programme planned for the most vulnerable.
Mr Johnson also offered some clarity about the future of the Test and Trace system, saying he would "continue from step four to manage the virus with a test, trace and isolate system" but that the system must be "proportionate".
He said that individuals who test positive or are told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace must do so, but that the Government was "looking to move to a different regime" for fully-vaccinated contacts of positive cases.
Mr Johnson was keen to emphasise that he has not yet made a decision on whether the planned easing of restrictions will go ahead on July 19.
A decision will be announced a week before, on July 12.
But he praised the vaccine programme for weakening the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
He added that, if the easing on July 19 went ahead as planned, the Government would continue to watch the data but was keen not to revert back to strict rules.
He said: "We will continue to monitor the data and retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods such as the winter, but we will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring."