Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today outlined Step 4 of England’s continued efforts to lift Covid-19 restrictions.
The 5 point plan outlined the steps the government would take from the 19th July should the data enable the next phase of lockdown-lifting to take place. Mr Johnson described the steps as our “plan for living with Covid.”
Any final recommendation to move into Step 4 will still be made on the 12th July, with Mr Johnson keen not to “pre-empt any decision.”
The delay in lifting lockdown restrictions has enabled us to “get more jabs in people’s arm” said Mr Johnson, while acknowledging that the fight was far from over after 19th July. Further delay to re-opening risks running into the Autumn and Winter period, traditionally a busy period in the NHS as winter bugs and flu cases start to rise, placing greater strain on the service.
“We must be honest that if we can’t reopen in the next few weeks, we must ask ourselves when will be able to return to normal.”
Said Mr Johnson. In the speech he also announced “it will no longer be necessary for government to instruct people to work from home” though seemed to fall short of urging people to return to the office. “Employers,” he said, “will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace.”
Step 4 measures include
- Reducing the dose interval from 12 weeks to 8, with the aim of vaccinating all over 18’s by mid September; this is in addition to a booster vaccines for the most vulnerable
- Move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own decisions on measures moving forward. This step includes removing restrictions on the numbers of people who can meet indoors and outdoors.
- All businesses can re-open, including those in the hospitality sector which have suffered the most during this period.
- The 1m-plus rule will end
- The legal obligation to wear a face covering will end, although the Prime Minister acknowledged that there will be occasions when people may still consider wearing a face mask.
NHS Test and Trace will remain and people who test positive for Coronavirus, or those instructed via the app, will have to self isolate.
The lifting of restrictions applies only to England and the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will make their own announcements shortly. Scotland have already suggested that it may continue to enforce the wearing of face masks after their date for lifting the majority of restrictions on 9th August while Wales and Northern Ireland continue to keep their progress under review.