UK citizens will now learn to live with the virus as it returns to normalcy
In one week, the UK will begin to look a lot like it was pre COVID-19, all restrictions and mask mandates are set to end in England as the country begins the transition into Step 4, a return to normalcy or as close to it as possible. Prime Minister Johnson made the announcement yesterday to roars of applause and jubilant citizens.
“When we paused step 4 a few weeks ago, we had two reasons. First, we wanted to get more jabs into people’s arms – and we have, with over 45 million adults now having received a first dose and 33 million a second. That is a higher proportion of the adult population of any European country except Malta, and our expectation remains that by July 19 every adult will have had the chance to receive a first dose and two thirds will have received their second dose.” Said Prime Minister
The decision to open up will be made in a balanced and careful way, with the Prime Minister being clear that people’s personal judgement will now be key in learning to live with the virus. Subject to a final review of the data next week, legal restrictions will end on Monday 19 July.
The UK is taking the stance that COVID-19 for the time being will eventually be treated like any virus that can be contracted and cured with the right prescription. It is not long before other countries around the world begin to adapt a similar policy. It is however important to note the UK has the luxury of having COVID-19 vaccines manufactured at home which puts their citizens first in line to be inoculated.
Limits on social contact will end, meaning there will be no restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings. Weddings, funerals and other life events able to take place without limits or restrictions. All venues currently closed will be allowed to reopen, including nightclubs, and there will be no legal requirement for table service in hospitality settings.
Face coverings will no longer be legally required in shops, schools, hospitality, or on public transport although guidance will be in place to suggest where people might choose to wear one, such as where you come into contact with people you don’t usually meet in enclosed and crowded places.
There will be no legal requirement on the use of Covid-status certification as a condition of entry for visitors to any domestic setting. Over 79 million vaccine doses have now been administered in the UK, every adult has now been offered at least one dose, and 64% of adults have received two doses.
The government has also today confirmed the rollout will accelerate further, by reducing the vaccine dose interval for under 40s from 12 weeks to 8. This will mean every adult has the chance to have two doses by mid-September.
The Prime Minister made clear that learning to live with the virus meant cases would continue to rise significantly, even if the success of the vaccination programme meant hospitalisations and deaths will rise at a lower level than during previous peaks.
He set out how cases could rise to 50,000 per day by 19 July, with daily hospital admissions and deaths also rising although more slowly. The guidance to work from home where possible will also end, to allow employers to start planning a safe return to workplaces.
The cap on the number of named visitors for care home residents will be removed from the current maximum of five per resident, although infection prevention and control measures will remain in place to protect the most vulnerable.
While NHS Test and Trace will continue to play an important role in managing the virus, the PM also signalled the government’s intention to move to a new regime whereby fully vaccinated people would no longer need to self-isolate if identified as a contact. Further details will be set out in due course.
The Education Secretary will also update on new measures for schools and colleges later this week, which will minimise further disruption to education but maintain protection for children.
Proof of vaccination or a negative test will still be required for international travel, with the Prime Minister confirming that the Transport Secretary will provide a further update later this week on removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals from an amber country to isolate.