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Kent coronavirus: Boris Johnson announces details of England's 'freedom day'

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Boris Johnson has revealed the next stages out of lockdown in a Downing Street press conference.

The Prime Minister will tear up current rules in a fortnight on July 19 if the situation with the pandemic doesn't worsen dramatically.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference this evening
Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference this evening

He told the public face masks are no longer required in most settings, with social distancing rules removed for pubs and restaurants, and told people "to learn to live with the virus".

There will no longer be restrictions on the number of people inside and outside and school bubbles at schools will be removed.

The work from home rule will also be lifted.

Mr Johnson set out a five point plan on easing restrictions, which included re-opening nightclubs and letting people make their own choices.

He said: "First we will reinforce our vaccine wall, reducing the dose interval for under 40s from 12 weeks to eight, so that everyone over 18 should be double-jabbed by the middle of September in addition to our Autumn programme of booster vaccines for the most vulnerable.

Face masks won't be necessary anymore. Picture: Stock
Face masks won't be necessary anymore. Picture: Stock

"Second we will change the basic tools we've used to control human behaviour. We'll move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus.

"We will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors. We'll allow all businesses to reopen including nightclubs.

"We will lift the limits on named visitors to care homes and numbers of people attending concerts, theatres and sports events.

"We will end the one-metre rule on social distancing and the legal obligation to have a face covering, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so especially when cases are rising and when you come into contact with people you don't usually meet in enclosed spaces such as crowded public transport."

He admitted a decision would be made on July 12, but that delaying reducing restrictions until winter would work in favour of the virus.

'So employers can start planning a safe return to the workplace...'

Boris Johnson added: "It will no longer be necessary for the government to instruct people to work from home, so employers can start planning a safe return to the workplace.

"No Covid certificate will be required for entry to any venue or event, although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification." - basically says they can use the NHS Covid app as a proof of vaccination.

"Thirdly we will continue to manage the virus with a test and trace system that's proportionate to the pandemic. You will have to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to do so by the NHS test and trace system.

"Tomorrow the Education Secretary will announce our plans to maintain key protections but remove bubbles and contact isolations for pupils.

"Fourthly, we will maintain our tough border controls including the red list and recognising the protection afforded by two doses of the vaccine, we'll work with the travel industry to remove the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on their return from an amber country. The Transport Secretary will provide an update later this week.

Faversham MP Helen Whately says she is looking forward to not having to wear a mask
Faversham MP Helen Whately says she is looking forward to not having to wear a mask

The news of being allowed to ditch masks was welcomed by one Kent MP, who said she is looking forward to not wearing one.

The Faversham MP told Sky News: “I, like others, have followed the guidance on when you should or shouldn’t wear them.

“We’re looking forward to not having to wear one in so many circumstances.

“We’re going to ask people to take personal responsibility on choices like that.

“Like many others, I can’t wait to not wear a mask, but I will be cautious and try to make the right judgements and follow guidance on this.”

The Prime Minister also explained to people there would be no one metre-plus rule in hospitality venues.

He also told people the working from home guidance will be dropped and workers are okay to return to the office, if their employers permit.

Analysis from political editor Paul Francis

When Boris Johnson set out a roadmap by which the country could navigate its way out of the Covid-19 crisis, he could have expected that it would involve some detours and the need to engage reverse gear.

And there have been a few bumps along the way.

His fellow passenger on the journey, the ex-health minister Matt Hancock, was unable to complete the trip for well-documented personal reasons.

Still, if the PM has not quite arrived at his destination, it looks as if he and us will. Monday July 19 is - unless something dramatic happens - Freedom Day.

The government’s mantra was that the government would move in an irreversibly cautious way.

That caution was reflected in the decision to delay the day of liberation by four weeks, chiefly to allow for scrutiny of the rates of transmission.

Now that has passed, the government has determined the time has come to act and to act decisively.

There have been some eyebrows raised that the announcement today has come before the most up-to-date data is available.

However, this has been a political judgement rather than a clinical prognosis. A sizeable number of Conservative MPs have been agitating for some of the restrictions - chiefly masks and social distancing - to be lifted for many weeks arguing it should be a personal choice.

This has been a factor but the Prime Minister has calculated that lifting the rules on masks and maintaining social distance now - with the backdrop of what he called a “summer firebreak” - is the best option.

It is, he said, a case of “if not now, then when?” The answer to that may be revealed in the coming weeks.

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