Video LoadingVideo UnavailableClick to playTap to playThe video will auto-play soon8CancelPlay now
Get UK politics insight with our free daily email briefing straight to your inbox
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
It’s the bonfire of the Covid laws.
Face masks, social distancing, those QR codes and ordering at a table in pubs will no longer be a legal requirement from July 19 in England.
Boris Johnson has torn up a string of restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen after 16 months – and at full capacity.
Full-size stadium gigs and theatre shows will also be able to restart with no social distancing restrictions.
Masks won’t even be legally required in hospitals and care homes – and won’t be specifically advised on public transport.
But with Covid cases soaring above 20,000 a day, this great unlocking is risky and will provoke a furious row. "We always did say there would be a third wave", the Prime Minister – who claimed Britain could "turn the tide" in 12 weeks – said.
Do you agree with the bonfire of lockdown rules? Join the debate in the comments section.
Boris Johnson confirms Freedom Day plans from July 19 – tearing up almost all Covid laws
Boris Johnson risks fury over plan to tear up all legal Covid mask rules
Boris Johnson himself tonight admitted the pandemic is "far from over", adding "It certainly won't be over by the 19th".
He said 50,000 cases a day may be recorded by July 19, adding bluntly: "We must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid."
Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said cases are doubling every nine days, while hospitalisations are "rising quite steeply in some places and we would expect that to continue". "It's a weakened link, not a completely broken link," he said.
He added: “Deaths are increasing. There’s an increase in deaths just as there’s been an increase in hospitalisation and we would expect that to continue also.”
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the epidemic is "clearly significant and rising", and “the data are not really clear” on whether the vaccine stops Long Covid, with data only due “over the next few months”.
Boris Johnson himself tonight admitted the pandemic is "far from over" and cases look set to hit 50,000 a day
And ex-aide Dominic Cummings today said the Prime Minister should “obviously not” be lifting all rules like he is, adding: “No10 has been told by scientific advisers not to do what they're doing.”
Yet Mr Johnson claimed: "If we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we’ll be helped by the arrival of summer and the school holidays, we must ask ourselves – when will we return to normal?"
And he refused to rule out a return to lockdown rules in winter, saying only he would "do everything to avoid reimposing restrictions".
There’s a get-out clause – these changes will only get final approval in a review next Monday 12 July, and could be postponed if the data is worrying. But all signs suggest Boris Johnson is determined to plough on ahead.
Here are all the main things you need to know – plus the rules that will remain in place, and the things we haven’t worked out yet.
No legal limits on social contact
There will no longer be limits on social contact.
The rule of six indoors and rule of 30 outdoors – which limited gatherings by law – will both be axed.
The 30-person limit that remained on some “life events” such as bar mitzvahs and christenings will be scrapped.
Restrictions on pubs and social contact will all be lifted
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Nightclubs and mass events can reopen at full capacity
All remaining businesses will be able to reopen including nightclubs – and all capacity caps will be lifted, including on mass events.
This means clubs that have been shut for 16 months can finally reopen with no phasing-in and a “big bang” opening night.
Social distancing ‘one metre plus’ rule scrapped
The one metre plus social distancing review rule will be scrapped.
You’ll no longer be told to stay two metres apart from people who aren’t in your household or bubble (or one metre with mitigations like masks or screens).
The exception will be in specific places – such as at the UK border (airport arrival halls), and if you test positive and are on your way to self-isolation.
All Covid rules in pubs to be scrapped with ordering at the bar to return
Health and Care Bill branded a Tory 'power grab' over NHS by furious campaigners
Face mask laws axed – even in hospitals and on trains
The legal requirements to wear face coverings will be removed completely, in all settings – the most controversial element announced tonight.
Guidance will suggest people might choose to wear a face covering in enclosed and crowded places, but this will be voluntary.
Advice will be that where a face covering could reduce your risk and the risk to others, it will be up to the individual to decide. That’s despite the fact a mask protects other people more than the person actually wearing it.
This even applies in the NHS and care homes – where face masks will not be a legal requirement, even though they will be advised.
Beyond healthcare, the only area to get specific advice, guidance will be that while wearing a face covering “reduces the risk to yourself and others”, it’s up to you whether to take the risk.
That means there will be no targeted guidance for wearing masks on public transport, though Boris Johnson raised this as an example of enclosed, crowded places where you might want to wear them.
Masks will no longer be compulsory on public transport
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
For airlines, this technically means people will have to socially-distance in arrivals halls – but not by law wear a mask on the plane.
However, individual airlines are free to tell their passengers to wear masks on board as a condition of travelling with that airline, and Ryanair has already said it will do that.
Businesses can more widely set rules for entry to their own premises.
And rail firms could attempt to mandate masks as a condition of carriage – for example, the Tube enforcing mask-wearing even if it’s not a legal requirement – but this might end up clashing with equality law.
Asked if vulnerable people should avoid public transport, if they’re concerned about others not wearing masks, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “It will be down to individuals to make a judgment on their personal circumstances.
“That’s been the case previously and the public have been able to do that based on the latest evidence and advice, and that’s the approach we’re going to take.”
It’s understood No10’s focus on personal responsibility also extends to vulnerable people, who they believe have the option to travel at less busy times if they’re worried about catching Covid from someone not wearing a mask.
Chris Whitty said he would wear a mask in three situations – any situation indoors and crowded or close proximity to other people, if required to by authorities, and if someone else was uncomfortable "as a point of common courtesy".
“This is a thing we do to protect other people”, the Chief Medical Officer stressed.
Boris Johnson then added: "I will obviously wear a mask in crowded places where you’re meeting people where you don’t know, as Chris was saying… as a simple courtesy."
Working from home mandate axed
Government guidance will no longer instruct people to work from home.
However, officials are stopping short of actively encouraging a return to the office, saying it is a decision for employers.
Asked if people will have the right to work from home if they’re not comfortable with mask rules in their workplace, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman replied: “We’re not introducing any additional employment rights.”
Working from home has got very old, very quickly for a lot of people
You can stand at the bar in pubs
Legal requirements on hospitality businesses will be revoked, such as restrictions on seated eating and drinking and mandatory table service.
People will no longer be required to scan in using QR codes but venues can still request this if they want or people can scan if they want.
Care home visitor limits axed
The five-person limit on each resident’s number of “named visitors” will be lifted, with any number of visitors allowed.
However, there may still be a limit on the number of visitors a resident can receive in one day.
Infection control measures such as PPE and enhanced cleaning will remain in care homes.
Covid passports can be used by individual venues – but no law
There will be no legal requirements on Covid status certification (also known as vaccine passports) as a condition of entry for any setting.
Businesses will be able to voluntarily adopt certification if they want to, though, and the NHS app will facilitate this.
It was originally planned that the app would show a vaccine status; a negative rapid test result; or the existence of Covid antibodies.
A long-awaited Covid certification review is being published tonight with more information.
QR codes in pubs for the track and trace system
Everyone can now get a second jab after eight weeks
The vaccine rollout will be further accelerated by reducing the dosing interval for under-40s from 12 weeks to eight weeks.
This matches the shorter eight-week interval that already exists for over-40s between their first and second dose.
It means the government now expects all adults to have been offered the chance for a second dose by mid-September.
People queueing up for a vaccine
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Isolation rules WILL continue for everyone – for now
A “proportionate” test, trace and isolate system will be retained at step four.
This means people with Covid symptoms should continue to get a test.
Free asymptomatic testing – include lateral flow tests that you can order to your home – will be extended to September 30 for now. There is no hard date for these to end and they could be extended again.
Contact tracing will carry on, and it will remain a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive, or are asked to do so by Test and Trace.
However, it will no longer be a legal requirement to scan a QR code on the NHS app or give your details at a pub or restaurant.
Three things that HAVEN’T been sorted out today Freeing the double-jabbed from isolation
The Prime Minister was expected to signal his intention to allow double-vaccinated people who come into contact with a Covid case to be exempt from isolation requirements.
The PM’s spokesman said “further details will follow in due course”, but there is no hard date for the change.
Ending quarantine for double-jabbed holidaymakers returning from the amber list
The government will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully-vaccinated arrivals to isolate for 10 days, when coming in from amber list countries.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will make an announcement with further details later this week, but there’s no confirmed date when it would take effect.
More widely, the amber, green and red lists still remain and the next green list update isn't expected until around July 19.
End of school bubbles to stop sending so many pupils home
Ministers have been looking at ending classroom bubbles to reduce the number of children who need to self-isolate.
However, this is not being announced today.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will make an announcement tomorrow.