Boris Johnson is set to give a press conference later today (file photo) (Image: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock)
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Boris Johnson will give a 5pm Downing Street press conference today to confirm if the end of England's lockdown rules can go ahead next Monday.
The Prime Minister will give a final 'go or no go' decision on axing face mask laws, the rule of six indoors and the ban on nightclubs opening.
While Downing Street claim the decision will only be final later today, Mr Johnson has made clear he wants to go ahead with step four of his roadmap on July 19 – with the details already outlined last week.
But in a blizzard of mixed messages, he will emphasise caution and say people are "expected" to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces – at the same time as axing all mask laws.
And after claiming last week that the vaccine had "severed" the link between Covid cases and deaths, he will instead only say it has been "weakened".
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Boris Johnson set to announce July 19 lockdown changes at 5pm press conference today
Lockdown changes: Everything you can do from July 19 – and what only happens in August
Mr Johnson said last night: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning."
He added: "Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS."
So what is the PM currently expected to announce? Here's a quick run down.
The confirmed date of 'Freedom Day'
Boris Johnson is expected to confirm that the end of England’s lockdown restrictions can go ahead as planned on July 19.
Last week he spelt out the details of what the delayed ‘step four’ of his roadmap would mean.
Today’s announcement is about giving businesses a formal seven-day notice that it can proceed as planned.
While it’s not expected he will cancel the lockdown easing, it does technically depend on the data…
Boris Johnson at a Downing Street press conference
(Image: Getty Images)
Latest Covid data
The Prime Minister and his scientific advisors will present the latest data – which shows cases surging.
UK cases are up 27% in a week with 31,772 recorded yesterday, with the rate of growth apparently slowing after previously rising more than 50% week-on-week.
Deaths are far lower than earlier in the pandemic but are up 66% in a week, with 26 recorded yesterday and 203 in a week. Hospitalisations are up 57% in a week with 563 yesterday alone.
The PM is likely to say that step four can go ahead despite the surge, because the UK was always going to see an exit wave and the link between cases and deaths is “weakened”.
But the data is likely to raise huge questions about whether there could be a tide of “long Covid” in the young. And the PM’s admission that cases will continue to rise begs the question: how high is acceptable?
Crucially the data could show modelling of how many deaths are expected from stage four, something that was missing last week.
The government is set to scrap some laws including for mask wearing
Updated guidance on masks
The government is likely to publish guidance today on when people will be expected to wear face masks.
All face mask laws are still being axed, meaning you’d no longer face a £200 fine for not wearing one, but guidance looks set to be tighter than it was going to be.
A week ago, we were told healthcare would be the only specific area to get mask-wearing guidance.
Public transport was not set to be singled out, and people were to be told that while wearing a face covering in a crowded and enclosed space “reduces the risk to yourself and others”, it’s up to them whether to take the risk.
However, ministers have since tightened up their language after a backlash and suggested people will be “expected” to wear a mask. Watch for the actual wording.
More guidance for the clinically vulnerable
We have been promised updated guidance on what the immunocompromised or clinically extremely vulnerable should do when step four kicks in.
This group includes people for whom the vaccine is not as effective, and so are more vulnerable to the third wave.
Will they effectively be told to shield by another name, as reports have suggested?
Will they be told to travel outside peak hours, which is likely to lead to claims of discrimination?
A person wearing a mask on the London Underground
(Image: Getty Images)
And what we already knew… Social distancing
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.
Using QR codes to sign into venues
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.
Travel to amber list countries
From July 19, double jabbed adults in England will no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days after returning from amber list countries.
And advice not to take holidays to amber list countries will be dropped.
Double-jabbed returnees will only have to take three PCR tests, not two – and all children will be exempt, even if their parents aren't vaccinated.
However, the red list remains with £1,750-a-head hotel quarantine, and the policy currently only includes people resident in the UK, not tourists or expats.
Attending nightclubs, concerts and sporting events with venues at full capacity
After 16 months, you will be able to dance the night away with your friends.
And there is hope that you will all be able to get in as venues no longer have limits on how many people can be in these environments at once.
Capacity limits will also be scrapped on sports stadiums, gigs, theatre, cinema and other entertainment.
But this date only applies to England.
Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have not yet indicated when their venues will open to clubbers.
The original delay in lifting the restrictions came due to the outbreak of the ‘double mutant’ strain of coronavirus, known as the Delta strain.
Getting your second jab faster
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.
Working in the office
Government guidance will no longer instruct people to work from home.
Officials have not encouraged a return to the office, but have said 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.”
Ordering at the bar
You can stretch your legs and order drinks and food at the bar if you're at a pub or restaurant, instead of waiting to be served or making orders on your phone.