Explained: Which rules will change from July 19 under 'Freedom Day' plan

People wear a mask as they leave a shop amid the gradual lifting of restrictions to ease out of lock

Face coverings in shops and other circumstances will no longer be a mandatory requirement in England from July 19, if the planned easing goes ahead. - Credit: PA

The prime minister has outlined the changes in Covid-19 rules which will come into effect from July 19 – should 'Freedom Day' go ahead.

In a press conference on Monday evening, Boris Johnson said mainstays of the guidance such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing will become personal choice rather than the rules.

He acknowledged that Covid-19 cases and deaths would continue to increase – albeit at a much lower level than before the vaccination programme – but said it was now necessary to find a new way to live with the virus.

The decision on whether or not to go ahead with 'Freedom Day' on July 19 will be taken a week earlier.

If it does go ahead, here are the major changes coming into effect two weeks from now:


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Face coverings

For more than a year now it's been mandatory to wear a face covering in a lot of social situations, especially indoors.

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Unless you have a medical exemption, masks have been required in shops, while standing in pubs and restaurants and on public transport, among other places.

That will all change from July 19, as the mandatory rules become optional.

Those who wish to can still wear face coverings, but it will no longer be a requirement and businesses will no longer have to enforce the rules with customers.

Social distancing

Rules around social distancing have already been relaxed in previous lockdown liftings, from the two-metre rule to one metre plus and, since the May 17 easing, it's been personal choice as to whether or not you want to hug a loved one.

Now the rule is set to be scrapped once and for all, with the exception of specific circumstances such as at the border, where guidance will remain to keep passengers from red and amber list countries from mingling with other travellers.

It's big news for the events and hospitality sector, as it means there will be more seating and standing room in venues, meaning more customers.

Businesses

It's especially good news for nightclubs, which will be able to welcome customers for the first time since the pandemic began, and all other businesses which are yet to reopen.

Bars and restaurants will no longer be restricted to table service and seating room only and capacity caps will be lifted.

Working from home

The government will no longer be instructing people to work from home any more, meaning for many a return to the office for the first time in more than a year.

It will, of course, be up to individual firms on how they want to go about this – some will prefer their employees to keep working from home, while others will want them to return to the office.

Care home visits

The limit on named care home visitors will be lifted, meaning more of the family will be able to visit their loved ones living in such facilities – many for the first time since the pandemic began.

But infection control measures will remain in place, so wearing PPE and taking a Covid test is still likely before you will be allowed in.

Vaccine passports

The controversial idea to bring in 'vaccine passports' – Covid status certification – will not be made compulsory.

Some firms will be able to voluntarily use the system though, so worth checking with the organisers of any events you want to attend in case they choose to use such a system.

What's still to come?

Later this week, transport secretary Grant Shapps will give an update on plans to remove the need for fully vaccinated arrivals from amber list countries to isolate.

Meanwhile, education secretary Gavin Williamson is set to announce his plans for schools amid concern about the impact of the bubble system.

Although the legal requirement to self-isolate will remain for people who have tested positive or been identified as a contact by NHS Test and Trace, Mr Johnson wants contacts who are fully vaccinated to be exempt and the government will set out further details in due course.

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