Boris Johnson confirms 19 July reopening but warns things won't go straight back to normal

12 July 2021, 17:25 | Updated: 13 July 2021, 09:51

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has confirmed the easing of coronavirus restrictions will go ahead but warned things would not go straight back to normal, saying: "We cannot simply revert instantly... to life as it was before Covid".

The Prime Minister addressed the country at a Downing Street press conference a week before England is set to move into Step 4 of lockdown easing.

He said: "This pandemic is not over, this disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risk for you and your family, we cannot simply revert instantly from Monday 19th July to life as it was before Covid."

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Mr Johnson said the Government would "stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing".

But he said it is expected and recommended that "people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don't usually meet such as on public transport."

He also said a "gradual return to work over the summer" is expected rather than a rush back to the office en masse.

The Prime Minister told the press conference: "We're removing the Government instruction to work from home where you can but we don't expect that the whole country will return to their desk as one from Monday.

"We're setting out guidance for business for a gradual return to work over the summer."

He added nightclubs and other venues with crowds should use vaccine passports for entry "as a matter of social responsibility".

"We're urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS Covid Pass which shows proof of vaccination, recent negative test or natural immunity, as a means of entry," he said.

Mr Johnson was pressed by LBC's Ben Kentish on why after 19 July, face masks would - in the middle of a global pandemic - "be one of the few areas of public life where people are expected to behave in a certain way rather than be told to do so".

Mr Johnson said: "We're trying to move towards personal responsibility, people thinking about others as well as about themselves."

He added: "Clearly with masks there's world of difference between sitting alone on an empty station platform or in a crowded Tube train, and on a crowded Tube train we would as a government expect and recommend that people wear masks and I've no doubt that is what people will do."

The Prime Minister had said earlier in the press conference that "there is no easy answer and no obvious date for unlocking" but 19 July is the right time because of the "natural firebreak" of the school holidays.

He said: "We also know if we were to now delay this fourth step, for instance to September, or later, then we would be reopening as the weather gets colder and as the virus acquires a greater natural advantage and when schools are back. .

"We think now is the right moment to proceed when we have the natural firebreak of the school holidays in the next few days."