Covid UK: Face masks and social distancing ‘to be dropped on July 19’

Ministers want to get ‘as close to normal as possible’ on July 19 (Picture: PA)

England is on track to lift all remaining lockdown restrictions on July 19, including social distancing, face masks and work-from-home guidance.

Ministers want to get ‘as close to normal as possible’ and will replace Covid laws with ‘personal responsibility’, according to government sources.

Officials are said to be encouraged by the ‘very very’ low numbers of deaths from the virus and the slowdown in infections, which suggests that a summer spike can be avoided.

As long as current trends continue, the rule of six on indoor gatherings, crowd limits on outdoor events and the one-metre plus social distancing rule will all be scrapped on July 19.

Nightclubs will also reopen on this date and the requirement to wear face masks on public transport and in shops will be dropped, according to The Times.

Instead, laws will be replaced with guidance advising people to wear masks in certain circumstances.

Guidance which recommends that people should work from home if they can will also be scrapped, leaving it to individuals and employers to make decisions for themselves.

Some ministers believe the latest data is so encouraging that Boris Johnson should push ahead with easing remaining restrictions on July 5.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Maureen McLean/Shutterstock (11949848b) Shoppers out in Slough High Street today. The Covid-19 seven day rolling infection rates per 100,000 people in Slough for the week ending May 18 has risen to 25.4, up from 22.7. Given that the number of positive Covid-19 Indian variant cases are starting to rise, the possibly of the entire lifting of lockdown restrictions in June may now be in jeopardy Covid-19 lockdown daily life, Slough, Berkshire, UK - 23 May 2021

Social distancing will be scrapped on July 19 if current trends continue (Picture: Shutterstock)

He is expected to confirm on Monday that this is too early given the need to vaccinate more people, but that he is ‘optimistic’ Freedom Day will go ahead on July 19.

Cases are still rising, but the rate of increase has slowed down over the past week, including in hotspot areas in the north west.

A government source said that while the PM saw July 5 as a ‘real possibility’ and that he ‘really wanted it to be considered’, he now accepted that July 19 was more realistic. 

It comes after scientists warned that the rapidly spreading Delta variant, which first emerged in India, would lead to a ‘significant’ rise in hospital admissions if stage four of the road map out of lockdown went ahead on June 21 as planned.

July 19 is seen as a safer bet because two-thirds of adults will have been offered both vaccine doses by then due to the delay being coupled with a reduction in the time between jabs for the over-40s.

Some Tory MPs reacted with fury when the PM decided to push the freedom date back and warned there could be even more delays.

Boris Johnson said he is ‘confident’ no further delay will be necessary but was unable to rule that out, warning of the possibility that an unforeseen and ‘far more dangerous’ variant could emerge.

The Cabinet Office Minister Micheal Gove reiterated this, saying something ‘bizarre and unprecedented’ would need to happen for July 19 lockdown easing to be delayed.

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