British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that people in England will no longer be legally required to wear a face-covering and that all Covid-19 social distancing rules will be repealed on July 19th. Reuters video
People in England will no longer be required by law to wear face masks in any setting beginning July 19th, as all social distancing rules are repealed under Boris Johnson’s plan announced on Monday. There will be no restrictions on social contacts or the number of people allowed to attend licenced events, and all venues, including nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen.
The one-metre-plus rule will be lifted, all restrictions on seated eating and drinking will be lifted, and bars will be able to resume pre-pandemic serving arrangements, according to the plan, which will not be confirmed until next Monday.
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus must still self-isolate, but people who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to do so if they are identified as contacts of someone who has become infected. There will no longer be a requirement to work from home.
Mr Johnson, who delayed the lifting of additional restrictions by two weeks last month, said it was better to reopen society now rather than wait until winter.
“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 told a press conference in Downing Street.
The announcement that all legal restrictions will be removed came as coronavirus cases continued to rise, with a seven-day average of 25,447 new cases a day. The number of people in hospitals with coronavirus is also rising but much more slowly and the seven-day average of deaths is just 18 per day – compared to more than 1,000 a day earlier this year when case numbers were last so high.
The prime minister stated that lifting restrictions would result in an increase in coronavirus cases and that while the link between case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths had weakened, more people would die.
“We must, sadly, accept that there will be more Covid deaths,” he said.
Mr Johnson stated that by July 19th, every adult would have received one vaccine dose and two out of every three would have received their second dose.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said the government’s plan meant accepting an increase in hospitalizations and deaths while doing nothing to slow the spread of the Delta variant. He also stated that, despite the success of its vaccination programme, Israel had reintroduced a mask mandate due to an increase in infections caused by the Delta variant.
“Masks don’t restrict freedoms in a pandemic but when so much virus is circulating, they ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or takes public transport can do so safely. If nobody is masked, Covid risk increases and we are all less safe; especially those who have been shielding and are anxious. Why should those who are worried, and shielding be shut out of public transport and shops,” he said.
By Joe Cusmano