No Mask, No Distancing: COVID Restrictions Expected To End in UK
The restrictions are expected to be removed by 19 July. Although, a final decision will be taken next week.
Confirming plans to reopen United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, 5 July, said that in two weeks’ time, face masks will no longer be legally required and social distancing orders will be removed, as part of the final stage of England’s lockdown.
The restrictions are expected to be removed by 19 July. Although, a final decision will be taken next week, after testing whether the vaccine rollout offers enough protection from the highly contagious Delta variant.
Restrictions such as formal limits on social contact, the instruction to work from home, and orders to wear face masks, will be removed. However, this comes amid a gradual rise in the number of cases since last week.
Johnson believes that the vaccination programme has weakened the link between infections and hospital admissions.
He was quoted as saying, "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?" Reuters reported.
Johnson further said that people will be allowed to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus, once UK has moved away from legal restrictions.
WHAT RESTRICTIONS WILL BE REMOVED?
As per a BBC report, the following actions will take place in the last stage of UK's COVID lockdown:
Social distancing guidelines will be scrapped
It will not be legally mandatory to wear face masks
End to limits on attendance at weddings and funerals
Council powers to enforce rules will expire
Large-scale events will not legally require certification.
UK's VACCINATION ROLLOUT
Britain has vaccinated 86 percent of adults receiving a first dose and 64 percent receiving two doses as of Monday, according to government data.
Public Health England figures indicate that the vaccines have been highly effective, especially after two doses, in preventing the Delta variant from leading to severe illness or hospital admission, Reuters reported.
Johnson also announced that people under 40 would be invited for their second COVID-19 shots from eight weeks after their first dose, rather than 12 weeks.
RETURN TO NORMALCY?
Believing this time to be the best to end restrictions, Johnson reminded people to still be cautious and stated that containment measures could be brought back if needed.
He said, "I didn't want people to feel that this is, as it were, the moment to get demob happy… it is very far from the end of dealing with this virus," Reuters reported.
Obviously, Johnson added, if another variant was found that didn't respond to the vaccines, then necessary to protect the public will be taken.
England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty was quoted by BBC, outlining three scenarios where he would continue to wear a face mask:
Any situation which is indoors, crowded, or indoors with close proximity with other people
If I was required to by any competent authority
If someone else was uncomfortable if I did not wear a mask.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised the plan, saying that some legal measures, such as the requirement to wear masks on public transport, should be kept in place.
He asserted, "Simply throwing off all protections when the infection rate is going up is reckless."
WHAT ABOUT SCOTLAND, WALES, NORTHERN IRELAND
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own COVID policy and want to continue to take precautions.
The Scottish government has said it may continue to require masks in certain settings even after 9 August, when it is hoped the final curbs will end.
Meanwhile, in Wales, ahead of a review on 15 July, some ministers said people would need to learn to live with COVID. Rules in Northern Ireland have recently eased, with another review due on 8 July, BBC reported.
On Monday, 27,334 cases were reported across the UK, with nine deaths within 28 days of a COVID positive test.
(With inputs from Reuters and BBC)
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