Monday marks so-called ‘freedom day’ in England when most of the remaining legal restrictions on coronaviruses are lifted.
After months of constraints linked to the pandemic, the country has finally taken the final step in the government’s unblocking roadmap.
Here, the PA News Agency examines how life will be different:
– What steps are they going?
It’s official: the social distancing limits are largely exceeded, with no more “rule of six” and “one meter plus” restrictions.
Groups of more than six people from several households will be able to relax indoors and outdoors.
Businesses will reopen, including closed nightclubs that will be able to accommodate revelers on the dance floors.
Legal limits on mourners at funerals and on those celebrating weddings will also end, as will school bubbles.
– Can we all throw away our masks too?
It is complicated. Legally, face coverings will for the most part no longer be mandatory indoors.
But the government says it “expects and recommends” that masks be worn by workers and customers in enclosed and crowded spaces.
This could include using public transportation or mixing with people you don’t normally meet.
The official message is one of “personal responsibility” and “informed choice”.
– So where will face masks still be needed?
In London, Sadiq Khan said they would still be mandatory on the capital’s transport network.
Passengers at bus stations operated by the Combined West and South Yorkshire Authorities, on the North East Underground Tramway services and the Greater Manchester Metrolink will also be required to wear them in accordance with local rules.
Supermarket chains – including Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – will encourage customers to keep the masks on.
– Are the big events back?
Yes. From Monday, people can again enjoy concerts, theater and sporting events.
The government recommends that companies use “certification” as a basis for entry to sites deemed “high risk”.
– Is it related to talking about “vaccine passports”?
In a sense, except that corporate action will not be compulsory, only recommended.
Organizations are encouraged to use the NHS Covid Pass – which gives details of a person’s vaccination status or test results and shown in large-scale trials – to help limit the risk of infection.
– And if I just want to go to the pub, will I need a pass then?
Perhaps. The government is not prescriptive about which sites might use the system, so it will be up to site management or the owners themselves to decide whether it will be necessary to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
Table service is recommended to continue in bars.
Advertising group JD Wetherspoon said it will relax its face mask and table service rules for customers, but will still encourage the use of its app to order.
– What about Test and Trace? Could I still be nuts?
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 called a “pingemia,” businesses and unions have warned that Monday could turn into a “day of chaos” due to staff shortages triggered by workers having to self-isolate.
The self-isolation requirement will be abolished for contacts of positive cases for children under 18 and for adults doubly vaccinated from August 16.
Testing will still be available after July 19, while hotel quarantine will continue to apply for UK residents returning from Red List countries.
– Will I have to go back to work?
The government no longer orders people to work from home, but encourages a gradual return.
– Cases have increased, could all of this be of concern for clinically vulnerable people?
Some charities have expressed dismay at the possibility of people ditching face masks starting next week.
People who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be advised by the government to avoid unvaccinated others when restrictions are relaxed.
People at risk for severe Covid-19 illness should continue to meet outdoors whenever possible and have friends and family take a lateral flow test before traveling.
– What about retirement homes?
Beyond Monday, friends and relatives visiting nursing home residents will still need to wear protective gear and will be asked to minimize physical contact.
But there will be no limit on the number of “named visitors” a resident can receive and no national limit on the number of visitors that can be visited in a single day.
– Why is the Government so careful if we are at the end of its roadmap?
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19, and the Prime Minister and Chancellor forced into quarantine as close contacts, are sufficient proof of the continued presence of the virus and its ability to disrupt.
Boris Johnson will spend ‘freedom day’ in self-isolation, amid warnings from scientists that the number of cases could still skyrocket.
Mr Javid previously told MPs that the daily rate of Covid-19 cases could reach 100,000 per day, but the government is confident the vaccination program has “severely weakened” the link between cases, hospitalizations and deaths, which means the NHS will not be overwhelmed.