Most COVID restrictions set to end in England on July 19, says PM


(Xinhua) — Most coronavirus restrictions are set to end on July 19 as part of the final step of England’s roadmap out of the lockdown, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday.

Face masks and distancing rules will no longer be legally required in England from July 19, Johnson told a news conference at Downing Street.

Although the government will end the legal obligation on wearing a face covering, guidance will suggest “where you might choose to do so”, he said.

The rule of six inside private homes will also be removed and work-from-home guidance will be scrapped, said the prime minister.

There will be no COVID-19 certificate required to attend events or venues, he added.

However, Johnson said the pandemic is “far from over” and the country would have to “reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths”.

“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 by the school holidays – then we must ask ourselves when will we be able to return to normal?,” he added.

The final step, or Step Four, is expected to begin on July 19 if the government’s “four tests” for easing COVID restrictions have been met, according to the British government. This will be confirmed on July 12 following a review of the latest data.

The detailed arrangement of Step Four includes: no more limits on social contact to allow people to gather in groups of any size; removing the “one meter-plus” rule in almost all settings, except for specific places such as airports; no more legal requirement on wearing face masks in shops or on public transport; no capacity caps on large scale events; people are no longer required to work from home, etc.

Some rules will still be in place even if Step Four is implemented. Self-isolation is still legally required if one tests positive for COVID-19. The one-meter plus rule will still need to be followed in airports and other specific places, and infection control measures will remain in place in care homes.

The British government is only responsible for COVID-19 restrictions in England. The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own policies in relation to public health matters.

Johnson previously announced a four-week delay to the final step of England’s roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions until July 19, amid a surge in cases of the Delta variant first identified in India. Scientists have argued that lifting all restrictions at this stage will increase likelihood of dangerous variants.

Britain reported another 27,334 coronavirus cases in the 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,930,534, according to official figures released Monday.

The country also recorded another nine coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 128,231. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

More than 45.3 million people in Britain have received the first jab of COVID-19 vaccine and over 33.7 million people have received two doses, the official figures showed.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Russia, the United States as well as the European Union have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.