Most coronavirus restrictions to be lifted under step 4, PM confirms

Shay Bottomley

Boris Johnson confirmed tonight (Monday) that the majority of restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted under step 4 of the Government’s roadmap.

After 16 months of restrictions, the Prime Minister said that it was time to make a 'careful and balanced decision' at a Downing Street press conference, which would involve scrapping the one metre plus social distancing rules as well as the mandatory use of face coverings.

He added that he wanted to move away from Government legislation and shift to a focus on 'personal responsibility'. 

Under the fourth and final stage of his planned roadmap out of lockdown, which is due to take place on July 19, the Prime Minister paved the way for nightclubs to reopen and the removal of legal limits on mass gatherings.

Mr Johnson confirmed that a final decision on whether to lift the restrictions would be made on Monday, July 12.

Under step 4:

  • Face coverings will become advisory in enclosed public spaces, but people will not be fined if they choose not to wear one.
  • Social distancing will no longer be required in hospitality settings, table service will no longer be mandatory and the use of a QR code to gain entry will also be removed.
  • Working from home guidance will remain, but the decision to return workers to the office will be up to employers.
  • Mass gatherings such as weddings, entertainment venues and sporting events will have no legal restrictions on the number of attendees. COVID certificates will not be legally required to attend.
  • People who test positive, or are notified by NHS Test and Trace, will still be required to self-isolate.

The announcement comes as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. The latest available seven-day average for positive tests was 25,447.

However, the effectiveness of the vaccines has ‘weakened the link’ between positive cases leading to hospitalisation and deaths, with 63.8 per cent of the adult population now fully vaccinated.

At the press conference, the Prime Minister said: "I want to stress from the outset it is far from over - it certainly won't be over by July 19.

"As we predicted in the roadmap in February, we're seeing cases rise fairly rapidly - there could be 50,000 cases per day by July 19.

"Again, as we predicted, we're seeing rising hospital admissions and we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID. In these circumstances, we must take a careful and balanced decision. 

"There's only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step 4 in circumstances where we'd normally be locking down further and that's because of the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout."

He added that he expected all adults to have been offered a first dose by July 19, with two-thirds of the adult population receiving their second. 

"We must be honest with ourselves, that if we can't reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and school holidays, we must ask ourselves 'when will we be able to return to normal?'", he added.

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