All legal Covid-19 restrictions will be removed at Step 4

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that all legal restrictions relating to Coronavirus will be removed at Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown, which is expected to take place on 19 July, but this date will not be confirmed until 12 July.

He set out the Government’s 5 Point Plan for managing Coronavirus from Step 4 as follows:

  1. Reinforce the country’s vaccine wall of defence.  They will reduce the interval between first and second vaccinations for under 40’s to 8 weeks (as with over 40’s).
  2. Enable the public to make informed decisions.  They will move away from legal restrictions on Covid-safety including the 2m / 1m+ rule, business capacity requirements, and legal limits on gatherings indoors and outdoors.  Instead Covid-safety measures will become a matter of personal choice and responsibility.  Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen, and audience limits for theatres, concerts and events will be removed.  The legal obligation to wear a face covering will be removed, although there will be guidance on where it’s advisable to wear a face covering especially where cases are rising or where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed spaces such as crowded public transport.  The government won’t need to instruct people to work from home any longer, so employers can start to manage employees back into the workplace. Following the outcome of their Covid-Status Certification review, they don’t see requiring certification for visitors to gain entry to any setting is the way forward so they won’t be making it a legal requirement, although businesses can use it as they wish, and the NHS App can provide this resource.
  3. Retain proportionate Test, Trace and Isolate plans.  The Test, Trace and Isolate system will continue proportionate to the pandemic – there will still be the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to do so by NHS test and trace.  There will however be a different regime for fully vaccinated contacts of those testing positive and children.  The Education Secretary will be announcing tomorrow the intention to remove bubbles and contact isolation for school pupils.
  4. Manage risks at the border and support a global response.  They will maintain tough border controls including the red list, but will work with travel industry to remove the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on arrival from amber countries.  The Transport Secretary will give more information on this later this week.
  5. Retain contingency plans.  They will continue to monitor the data and retain contingency measures to manage the virus during high risk periods such as the winter.  The emphasis will be on managing the virus through strengthened guidance and will do everything possible to avoid re-imposing restrictions.

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid has spoken in The House of Commons at the same time as the conference, confirming the above.

The Government have also just published their ‘COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021’ Roadmap which is available here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-summer-2021-roadmap/covid-19-response-summer-2021   Some key further points from this are that at Step 4:

  • All remaining limits on social contact (currently 6 people or 2 households indoors, or 30 people outdoors) will be removed and there will be no more restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting, indoors or outdoors.
  • All settings will be able to open, including nightclubs. Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements.
  • All restrictions on life events such as weddings, funerals, bar/bat mitzvahs and baptisms will be removed, including the remaining restrictions on the number of attendees. There will be no requirement for table service at life events, or restrictions on singing or dancing.
  • COVID-status certification will not be required in law as a condition of entry for visitors to any setting. Organisations are already able to ask visitors for proof of COVID-status, as long as they meet existing legal obligations including under equality law. The Government is providing a way for individuals to easily demonstrate their COVID-status. This can be achieved by completion of a full vaccine course, a recent negative test, or proof of natural immunity – through the NHS COVID Pass on the NHS app.
  • The legal requirements to wear a face covering will be lifted in all settings. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, published guidance will advise that wearing a face covering will reduce your risk and the risk to others, where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.
  • Social distancing rules (2 metres or 1 metre with additional mitigations) will be lifted. You should continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly if you are clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated. Social distancing will only be required in limited circumstances: ports of entry for passengers between disembarkation and border control in order to manage the risk of Variants of Concern being transmitted between individuals; and people who are self-isolating should also continue to socially distance from others, particularly where they have had a positive test. Health and care settings will continue to maintain appropriate infection prevention and control processes as necessary and this will be continually reviewed. Guidance will be updated based on the latest clinical evidence this summer.  For individual settings where the risks of rapid spread are particularly acute, Directors of Public Health, in consultation with setting operators and relevant departments, will be able to advise that social distancing is put in place if necessary to control outbreaks. This should be targeted, time limited, and apply to settings characterised by enclosed and vulnerable communities such as prisons, immigration removal centres and homeless shelters.
  • It is no longer necessary for Government to instruct people to work from home. Employers can start to plan a return to workplaces.
  • Regulations that place COVID-secure requirements on businesses, including table service, and distancing between tables, will be lifted. ‘Working Safely’ guidance will be updated to provide examples of sensible precautions that employers can take to reduce risk in their workplaces. Employers should take account of this guidance in preparing the risk assessments they are already required to make under pre-pandemic health and safety rules.
  • Businesses must not require a self-isolating worker to come to work, and should make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell do not attend the setting.
  • Businesses will be encouraged to ask staff and customers to clean their hands regularly and clean surfaces that people touch regularly. The Government will provide guidance on how businesses can reduce unnecessary contact in the workplace, where it is practical. Operators will still be encouraged to use outside space where practical, and to consider the supply of fresh air to indoor spaces. Carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors could be used to help identify where a space is poorly ventilated with businesses encouraged to take steps to improve ventilation if CO2 readings are consistently high.
  • Businesses will be encouraged to display QR codes for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, to support NHS Test and Trace, although it will no longer be a legal requirement.
  • The Government will change the controls that apply in early years, schools, colleges and higher education institutions to maintain a baseline of protective measures while maximising attendance and minimising disruption to children and young people’s education. The Government’s intention is that from step 4 children will no longer need to be in consistent groups (‘bubbles’), and early years settings, schools or colleges will not be required to routinely carry out contact tracing, which will help to minimise the number of children isolating. Contact tracing in specific educational settings would only be triggered if deemed necessary in response to a local outbreak.
  • The Government also intends to exempt under 18s who are close contacts of a positive case from the requirement to self-isolate, in line with the approach for those who are fully vaccinated.  Further detail will be published in due course and the changes are likely to come into effect later in the summer. There will be no restrictions on in-person teaching and learning in universities.

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