England ‘set to drop all lockdown restrictions from next month’ - from face masks to social distancing

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 10:28 am
Social distancing, face masks and working from home requirements could all be dropped in England by next month (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Social distancing, face masks and working from home requirements could all be dropped in England by next month (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

The Times has reported that due to “very, very” low Covid-19 death figures means that the Government is confident that the 19 July data for ending restrictions in England can proceed.

This would mean the end of the likes of face masks, social distancing and “rule of six” guidelines.

Restrictions being lifted

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The Times states that the Government is expected to confirm on Monday that 5 July is too early to lift restrictions, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson is optimistic that 19 July could spell the end of all remaining restrictions.

Lifting all remaining restrictions would include places like nightclubs reopening and the end of social distancing and face coverings.

It’s reported that the legal requirement to wear face masks in areas like supermarkets and public transport will instead be replaced by guidance to wear them in certain settings.

The emphasis is set to be placed on personal responsibility rather than laws and regulations.

Additionally, work from home guidance is expected to be dropped as well, leaving it up to employers and employees to decide what to do.

‘It’s looking good for July 19’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “You can never exclude that there will be some new disease, some new horror that we simply haven't budgeted for, or accounted for.

"But looking at where we are, looking at the efficacy of the vaccines against all variants that we can currently see - so Alpha, Delta, the lot of them, Kappa - I think it's looking good for July 19 to be that terminus point."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that the so called “freedom day” would not be delayed beyond 19 July, stating: “The regulations themselves, we put this pause in effect by amending the expiry date, so they expire at midnight on the evening of 18 July.

“We also need to align the dates on several other Covid regulations which are essential for keeping us safe... for face coverings on public transport, the regulations which give powers to manage local outbreaks... and the regulations that give local authorities the powers to enforce Covid secure measures for businesses.

“These will all be extended until midnight on the 18 July.

“We don't want to extend these regulations a day longer than we have to.”

Government has been ‘overcautious’

When asked if it would be possible for the end of social restrictions to happen sooner than 19 July, Brendan Wren, Professor of Vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Sky News: “I think it could be possible.

“I think the Government has been a bit overcautious, there’s a certain amount of coronamania going on and we do need to take a wider view of society as a whole, and a wider view of the fact that excess deaths for the past few months are less than in previous years because, for example, many other infectious diseases are far lower now.”

Wren added: “We’re approaching the summer months now, we know from scientific work that the virus, and its variants, are less transmissible during heat and longer daylight hours.

“And we are in a stronger position, certainly in terms of not just vaccination, but in terms of testing and tracing and treating the virus, so that’s partly why I believe that we could open up sooner.”

‘Encouraging’ data

Speaking to Times Radio, Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, was asked whether it would be a good idea to consider lifting all formal restrictions on 19 July.

He said: “It's absolutely a good idea to consider it.

“The thing everyone’s looking for the data, is the rate of increase in cases and the level to which vaccine prevents those cases turning into hospitalisations and deaths. The trends for both of those are in encouraging directions.

“Whether or not this wave will have turned around by 19 July is harder to say for sure.

“So it’s the hospitalisations and deaths that everyone wants to watch pretty closely.”