Theatres, stadiums and play areas - all you need to know from latest lockdown easing
- Credit: PA
Local authorities will have new powers from Saturday to tackle coronavirus outbreaks, including closing specific premises, shutting outdoor spaces and cancelling events.
Announcing a shift from national restrictions, Boris Johnson also unveiled a slew of new freedoms at a Downing Street press briefing.
Most remaining leisure centres, including bowling alleys, will be allowed to reopen on August 1, while indoor performances with live audiences will begin to be allowed, subject to trails and safety measures. Trials will also begin of larger gatherings in places like sports stadiums “with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn”.
The prime minister said he hopes that spectators will be allowed to start to return to football matches from the middle of October.
He said the “blanket national lockdown” imposed between the middle of March and end of May had been the right thing to do, but now the UK is focused on localised lockdowns.
“National lockdown was undoubtedly the right thing to do and has saved many thousands of lives,” he said.
“Now, however, we know more about the virus, we understand the epidemiology better and our intelligence about where it is spreading is vastly improved. That means we can control it through targeted local action instead.”
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He said new local authority powers will enable them to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount.
“Action by local councils will not always be sufficient, so next week we will publish draft regulations on how central government can intervene more effectively at a local level,” he explained.
“Where justified by the evidence, ministers will be able to close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the size of gatherings beyond the national defined rules or restrict transport systems serving local areas.”
Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor, who is also chair of the Norfolk Covid 19 Engagement Board, said: “We welcome the ability for local authorities to intervene quickly in the event of a local outbreak. However, closures will always be a last resort and these powers will only be used if they are needed to protect the people of Norfolk. We are awaiting details on how and when they can be applied.
“Cases of coronavirus in Norfolk remain low and we want to keep them that way. The best way we can do that is by continuing to wash our hands, keeping our distance and wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport. It’s really important that people isolate and book a test if they have symptoms.
“This will help us to understand what’s happening in Norfolk so that we can contain the spread of the virus. We all need to play our part to protect ourselves, protect others and protect Norfolk.”
Mr Johnson said he hoped for a “more significant return to normality by November”, as he announced further reopening of the economy.
He said: “From August 1, we will reopen most remaining leisure settings, namely bowling, skating rings, casinos and we will enable close contact services, beauticians to resume.
“Nightclubs, soft play areas - sadly - need to remain closed for now, although this will be kept under review.
“We will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sport stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.
“We will also allow wedding receptions for up to 30 people.”
He added: “It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.”
From August 1 the advice on working from home will also be changed to give employers discretion over whether to ask staff to go back to work, Mr Johnson said.
While at the moment, staff are being advised to work from home where possible, in future staff will be encouraged to use public transport and talk to their employers as to whether they can return safely.
The Prime Minister said it was not for the Government to tell employers if staff should return to their workplaces, added: “What we’re saying now is that if employers think it would be better and more productive for their employees to come into the office and they can work in a safe way, in a Covid-secure way in the office, then there should be discussions between employers and employees and people should take a decision.”
Mr Johnson also confirmed an extra £3 billion in funding for the NHS to prepare for a possible second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson said Covid-19 could become “more virulent” in winter.
He said: “Demand for testing is not the only challenge that winter will bring. It’s possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months and it’s certain that the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures.”
He added: “We’re making sure we’re ready for winter and planning for the worst. But even as we plan for the worst I strongly believe we should hope for the best.
“That means looking ahead with optimism, now extending our plan to lift the remaining national measures, which have restricted our lives since March, so we can get back to something closer to normal life.”