Boris Johnson to axe face mask laws and confirm July 19 end to Covid rules
The Prime Minister is expected to tell people in England later today that it will be left to their “judgment” to manage the risks of coronavirus as he prepares to end restrictions on July 19.
Boris Johnson will lead a Downing Street news conference where he will tell the public that they must “begin to learn to live with this virus”, however scientists have voiced their concern about restrictions ending when cases have been rising in the country.
What is expected to be announced today
Mr Johnson will update the nation on the future of the one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues, the use of face coverings and work from home guidance, with multiple reports suggesting they will all be scrapped.
It has been suggested that from so-called “freedom day” on July 19 mask wearing will become voluntary, while social distancing in pubs and bars will end – along with needing to use a QR code to check-in – meaning a return to drinking at the bar without the requirement for table service.
Mass events, including festivals, will also reportedly be allowed under the proposals for the final stage of the road map out of lockdown.
Alongside the press conference, Health Secretary Sajid Javid will address the Commons on Monday to update MPs on any changes.
Officials said the Prime Minister will provide an update on care home visits, while also pushing those who have not done so to take up the offer of a vaccine, with 86% of people in the UK having received at least one dose so far.
What the PM is expected to say
The Prime Minister is expected to say: “Thanks to the successful rollout of our vaccination programme, we are progressing cautiously through our road map.
“Today we will set out how we can restore people’s freedoms when we reach Step 4.
“But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.
“As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgment when going about our lives.”
Scientist’s warning over Covid rules ending
However, scientists have urged caution over the lifting of restrictions with Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies which advises ministers, telling the Guardian: “Allowing community transmission to surge is like building new ‘variant factories’ at a very fast rate.”
Time ‘to find ways to cope with the virus’
Cabinet ministers on Sunday appeared to prepare the ground for an easing of measures, with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick telling the BBC the Government could “roll back” restrictions due to the impact vaccines are having on reducing serious illness from Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Mr Javid said that while the economic arguments for opening up were well known, for him the health arguments were “equally compelling”.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Javid said it was time to “find ways to cope with” the virus, like the country does flu.
The latest Government figures show that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been an additional 24,248 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK – up 66% in the past week.
However, a further 15 people were recorded to have died within 28 days of testing positive, official figures stated on Sunday, in an indication that vaccines are guarding against coronavirus-related deaths, with mortality down 1.6% in the past seven days.