July 19 'Freedom Day': Everything you need to know - explained

19 July 2021, 07:46 | Updated: 19 July 2021, 20:20

July 19 sees most Covid-19 lockdown restrictions lifted
July 19 sees most Covid-19 lockdown restrictions lifted. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Today marks so-called "Freedom Day" in England when most remaining legal coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

The country has finally reached the last step in the Government's unlocking road map.

Here is an explanation of what is changing from today as the country 'unlocks'

What measures are going?

Social distancing limits are largely over, with no more "rule of six" and "one metre plus" restrictions.

Groups of more than six people from multiple households can meet indoors and outdoors from today.

Businesses will reopen, including nightclubs who welcomed party-goers back to dance floors from midnight.

Legal limits on mourners at funerals and those celebrating weddings will also end, as will school bubbles.

READ MORE: Freedom Day: Most lockdown restrictions lift in England

READ MORE: PM admits he 'briefly' considered not self-isolating but now will until 26 July

READ MORE: Some double-jabbed NHS staff can avoid self-isolating even if pinged by app

What about face masks?

Face coverings will mostly no longer be legally mandatory in indoor settings.

But the Government says it "expects and recommends" masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces.

This could include using public transport or mixing with people you do not normally meet.

The official message is one of "personal responsibility" and "informed choice".

Where will face masks still be needed?

In London, they will still be compulsory on the capital's transport network.

Passengers in bus stations operated by combined authorities West and South Yorkshire, on the North East's Metro and Greater Manchester's Metrolink tram services will also be required to wear them under local rules.

Supermarket chains - including Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose - will encourage customers to keep masks on.

Are large events back on?

From Monday people can begin enjoying concerts, theatre and sports events once again.

The Government recommends businesses use "certification" as a basis of entry to venues deemed "high risk".

Is this connected to talk of "vaccine passports"?

In a sense, except action from businesses will not be mandatory, only recommended.

Organisations are being encouraged to use the NHS Covid Pass - that gives details of someone's vaccination or test result status and featured in large event trials - to help limit the risk of infection.

What about if I just want to go to the pub?

The Government is not being prescriptive about what venues could use the system, so it will be up to venue management or landlords themselves to decide if it will be necessary to guarantee the safety of staff and patrons.

Table service is recommended to continue in bars.

Pub group JD Wetherspoon has said it will relax its face mask and table service rules for customers but will still encourage the use of its app for ordering.

What about Test and Trace? Could I still be pinged?

Yes - positive Covid cases and their contacts identified by NHS Test and Trace will still be legally required to self-isolate.

But amid what some have dubbed a "pingdemic", businesses and unions have warned that Monday could become "chaos day" due to staff shortages triggered by workers having to self-isolate.

The self-isolation requirement will be abolished for contacts of positive cases for under 18s and for double vaccinated adults from August 16.

Testing will still be available after July 19, while hotel quarantine will continue to be enforced for those UK residents travelling back from red listed countries.

Will I have to go back to work?

The Government is no longer instructing people to work from home, but encouraging a gradual return.

Cases have gone up, could this all be concerning for the clinically vulnerable?

Some charities have expressed dismay over people being able to ditch face masks from next week.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be advised by the Government to avoid others who are unvaccinated when restrictions are eased.

Those at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 should continue to meet outdoors where possible and ask friends and family to take a lateral flow test before visiting.

What about care homes?

Beyond Monday, friends and relatives visiting care home residents will still need to wear protective equipment and be advised to minimise physical contact.

But there will be not be a limit on the number of "named visitors" a resident can receive and no national limit on how many can visit in a single day.

Why is the Government so cautious if we are at the end of its road map?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid testing positive for Covid-19, and the Prime Minister and Chancellor forced into quarantine as close contacts, is evidence enough of the virus's ongoing presence and ability to disrupt.

Boris Johnson will spend "freedom day" self-isolating, amid warnings from scientists that cases numbers could still soar higher.

Mr Javid previously told MPs the daily Covid-19 case rate could rise to 100,000 per day, but that the Government is confident that the vaccination programme has "severely weakened" the link between cases, hospital admissions and deaths, meaning the NHS will not be overwhelmed.