Almost all Covid-19 lockdown restrictions will be lifted in England on July 19 health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed this afternoon.
Social distancing and legal limits on gatherings will end but the use of domestic vaccine passports and face masks will be encouraged. The Health Secretary said this is “the most responsible decision that we can take” that balanced the harms of Covid with the harms of restrictions.
He said a plan would be published later today “encouraging businesses and events to use certification in high-risk settings”, although both he and the Prime Minister said earlier this month that ‘vaccine passports’ would not be required to enter hospitality venues.
“We firmly believe that this is the right time to get our nation closer to normal life,” he said, adding that people should “return to work gradually”.
The Prime Minister said in a coronavirus update on Monday that the government believed it was right to proceed “with caution”, adding that life will not “simply revert” to the pre-pandemic normal on July 19.
The ‘one metre plus’ rule will be abandoned completely on July 19. However, some guidance to maintain social distancing in certain situations will remain in place of the legal restrictions.
Social distancing guidance will continue if someone is Covid positive and self-isolating, or in airports, or other ports of entry, to avoid travellers arriving from amber or red-list countries mixing with those from green list areas.
Limits on social contact in England will disappear, meaning the end of the rule of six indoors and the limit of 30 people for outdoor gatherings.
During a press conference, the prime minister said that he “didn’t expect that the whole country will return to their desk as one from Monday” and that the government was “urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS Covid pass”.
As of Monday, nightclubs will be permitted to reopen, all legal limits on the numbers of people meeting indoors and outdoors will be removed, the requirement for table service in venues will also end and the government will no longer instruct people to work from home.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association said it marked “the beginning of nightlife’s long journey to rebuild itself”.
He said: “There are some important hurdles ahead for our sector, including changes to the isolation rules which have the potential to throw the recovery off course, but for those businesses that have made it this far in the pandemic, I feel confident that the sense of community and togetherness the sector has shown to this point will help us overcome these challenges.
“We look forward to the government providing more guidance for businesses owners – this should be practical and easy to navigate. But from today’s statement we can say that the government are right not to mandate the use of Covid status certification systems. Much of the night-time economy relies on spontaneous consumers, and by permitting businesses to opt out, the government have allowed for this trade to continue.”
Pubs and brewers welcome ‘Freedom Day’
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), welcomed confirmation that restrictions on pubs in England, including one metre plus social distancing and table service only, will be lifted on July 19th.
The trade association says the lifting of restrictions on July 19th – ‘Freedom Day’ – will enable 2,000 more pubs to reopen that have remained shut because they cannot viably operate under restrictions.
Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “After nearly 18 months of closure or heavy restrictions, ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday 19th July is a huge milestone for our sector.
“It means our beloved locals can properly reopen and operate as they are meant to do so. A pint on ‘Freedom Day’ is going to be all the more special!
“We anticipate some 2,000 more pubs could reopen from July 19th. These are pubs that were unable to reopen and operate viably because of the restrictions.
“The recovery of our sector is just beginning with the last 18 months practically being written off for them. Having been one of the worst hit sectors by lockdown, our pubs and brewers now need the Government to invest in them by reforming VAT, beer duty and business rates to reduce the unfair tax burden they face and aid their recovery. We urge people who want to help their local and see it thrive to support the Long Live the Local campaign and sign the petition at www.LongLiveTheLocal.pub. With the right investment, the brewing and pub sector have a vital role to play in building back better in communities across the country.
“We do have concerns over guidance for the sector, expected to be published soon, as restrictions are lifted. We await the detail of this but are resolute that any new guidance must not be used to impose unnecessary and unfair restrictions on pubs via the backdoor – resulting in ‘Freedom Day’ for pubs being in name only.”
CAMRA Chief Executive Tom Stainer said: “The lifting of these final restrictions is a huge step on the road to recovery for England’s pubs, social clubs and breweries. 19th July will be the opportunity for our pubs to be able to trade at full capacity, with table-service replaced by people ordering and chatting at the bar.
“Not only will this see the much-anticipated return of the traditional pub experience for customers, it will also help licencees make ends meet after a devastating 16 months.
“CAMRA will continue to campaign for the Government to continue to support pubs, including by changing the rate of duty charged on draught beer served in pubs to help them compete with supermarkets. Pubs are also in need of clarity from the Government as restrictions lift, namely on what is expected of businesses in continued contact tracing and checking COVID status, which we hope will be released in the coming days.
“We are calling on everyone to support their local pubs, social clubs and the great local breweries that serve them in the weeks and months ahead. As restrictions lift across the UK, we can help the Great British pub recover, thrive and cement their place at the heart of community life up and down the country.”