Mask wearing and social distancing 'to be voluntary after July 19'

4 July 2021, 07:41 | Updated: 4 July 2021, 22:35

Face masks are set to become voluntary, according to reports
Face masks are set to become voluntary, according to reports. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Downing Street has pledged to reveal more about the July 19 unlocking "soon" as reports say mask wearing and social distancing will only be voluntary afterwards.

Boris Johnson is expected to update the country on easing England's Covid restrictions with newspapers saying he believes measures can end on the new "freedom day".

Mask wearing will stop being enforced and become a matter for the individual and the one-metre plus rule in hospitality venues will end, The Sunday Times has reported.

It added that mass events like festivals will also be allowed again and customers will no longer need to scan a QR code before entering bars, restaurants and venues such as museums.

The Government expects to be given the results of reviews into using "vaccine passports" and the future of social distancing, according to the Sunday Express.

Read more: Calls for some Covid rules to stay but double-jabbed will 'no longer need to self-isolate'

Read more: Freedom Day: Tory MP says country 'should have unlocked on June 21'

And on Saturday, a Press Association source at Downing Street said the Government was investigating if it can drop self-isolation for fully vaccinated people when they come into contact with someone infected with coronavirus.

New health secretary Sajid Javid wrote in the Mail on Sunday: "The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.

"The pandemic has hit some groups disproportionately hard.

"Rules that we have had to put in place have caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people's mental health."

The move to ease up self-isolation requirements comes as the hospitality industry warned that it was experiencing staff shortages due to workers getting pinged by the NHS app.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said pubs were "closing or greatly reducing their opening hours due to staff shortages caused by app pings" even though staff were being given negative results through rapid testing.

Doctors called for some restrictions, like mask wearing, to remain after July 19 to restrict the spread of Covid.

But the Sunday Times said ministers are confident that, due to the vaccines, they are confident there will not be any extra pressure on the NHS.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "No decisions have been made but more details will be set out soon."