The Prime Minister has gambled on trusting the public’s judgment and the protection offered by vaccines as he scrapped mandatory mask-wearing and lifted social distancing requirements.
The so-called “freedom day” is expected on July 19, with a decision on whether or not to go ahead being taken a week earlier.
Officials acknowledged that Covid-19 cases and deaths would continue to increase – albeit at a much lower level than before the vaccination programme – but it was now necessary to find a new way to live with the virus.
Under the Prime Minister’s plan for Step 4 of the road map:
– There will be no limits on social contact, meaning the end of the orders such as the “rule of six” and restrictions on guests at weddings and mourners at funerals.
– Legal requirement to wear face coverings will be lifted, although guidance will suggest people might choose to do so in “enclosed and crowded places”.
– All remaining businesses will be able to reopen, including nightclubs, while capacity caps will be lifted and bars and restaurants will no longer be restricted to table service.
– The Government will no longer instruct people to work from home.
– The “one metre plus” rule on social distancing will be lifted except in specific circumstances such as at the border, where guidance will remain to keep passengers from red and amber list countries from mingling with other travellers.
– The limit on named care home visitors will be lifted but infection control measures will remain in place.
– There will be no compulsory use of Covid status certification – so-called domestic vaccine passports – although firms will be able to voluntarily use the system.
– The gap between vaccine doses for under-40s will be reduced from 12 weeks to eight, meaning that all adults will have the opportunity to be double-jabbed by mid-September.
Although the legal requirement to self-isolate will remain for people who have tested positive or been identified as a contact by NHS Test and Trace, Mr Johnson wants contacts who are fully vaccinated to be exempt and the Government will set out further details in due course.
Later this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will give an update on plans to remove the need for fully vaccinated arrivals from amber list countries to isolate, while Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will set out his plans for schools amid concern about the impact of the bubble system.