Boris Johnson announced today that what has now been coined as ‘Freedom Day’ will go ahead as planned for next Monday, 19th July as part of their roadmap for ending lockdown. Despite warning that the pandemic isn’t over and that we are on the third wave with infections increasing all of the time.
How are bars and nightclubs celebrating Freedom Day?
Many bars and nightclubs are poised to re-open fully with no longer restrictions and celebrate ‘Freedom Day’ next Monday. Many are gearing up to throw parties, and social distancing will be no longer expected from those going to venues, but is this something that we are all ready to celebrate?. Nightclubs that have been the real victims of COVID have now been told that they need to introduce COVID passports, but how is this really going to be enforced and monitored? Many younger people have still yet to be vaccinated, but is there an argument to be had that younger people will not be so adversely affected if they did contract COVID.
In response to the press announcement today, a Mitchells & Butlers spokesperson says “We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding the intention to lift the majority of Covid restrictions from July 19th, 2021.
“We look forward to trading again without restrictions and at full capacity, allowing our business to continue its recovery from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.
“As we progress to trading without legal restrictions guest and team member safety will remain our top priority. We will confirm what our policies will be from July 19th in due course.”
Greene King also responded with their spokesperson said: “We’re really looking forward to the move to step four and are working through how our pubs will adapt to the reduction of restrictions so we can recreate the Great British pub atmosphere while still providing an environment where our customers and team feel safe.”
Should we be opening up so soon?
The word ‘herd immunity’ keeps being thrown around in the media. Numbers in infections are steadily rising as are hospitalisations, although not at the level of the other waves. Yet, the government are arguing that with the number of people being immunised the risk to people has lessened and they have drawn a line in the sand, stating that there will always be a risk when opening up again. Things will never be normal again, but do we need to start facing the new normal?
Government Guidelines: In England from 19 July
The Government has decided to move to step 4 of the roadmap, a new phase of continued caution whilst managing the risks of COVID-19.
Lifting restrictions – what lockdown restrictions are due to end
Most legal restrictions to control COVID-19 will be lifted at step 4. According to government guidelines which have documented below, this means that when step 4 takes place:
You will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with. There will also be no limits on the number of people you can meet.
However, in order to minimise risk at a time of high prevalence, you should limit the close contact you have with those you do not usually live with, and increase close contact gradually. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts.
Meet outdoors where possible and let fresh air into homes or other enclosed spaces.
The Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can. However, the Government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer.
The requirement to wear face coverings in law will be lifted. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
There will no longer be limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events (including receptions and celebrations). There will be no requirement for table service at life events, or restrictions on singing or dancing. You should follow guidance for weddings and funerals to reduce risk and protect yourself and others.
There will no longer be restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship.
COVID-19 has not gone away, so it’s important to remember the actions you can take to keep yourself and others safe. Everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious.
Hospitality venues to all fully open
All remaining closed businesses and venues such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues will be able to reopen.
All capacity limits at sporting, entertainment, or business events will be lifted.
Hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and bars will no longer be required to provide table service or follow other social distancing rules. Something I know I personally am going to miss! Queuing at the bar isn’t something I am looking forward to.
Businesses to gradually return to work
Whilst the Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can. The Government is recommending a gradual return over the summer. Some businesses have insisted their workers return back to work already, whilst others are yet to confirm.
Employers will still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. Working Safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:
cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly;
identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow;
ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue;
communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.
What is a NHS COVID Pass?
The government is encouraging organisations in higher-risk settings to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry, in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19. This will especially be the case in large crowded settings where people are likely to be in close proximity to others outside their household. The Government reserves the right to mandate certification in certain venues at a later date if necessary.
To support organisations and individuals in these settings, the NHS COVID Pass will be made available through the NHS App, NHS.UK, or as a letter that can be requested by ringing NHS 119. Visitors will also be able to show text or email confirmation of test results. Organisations should ensure they are in compliance with all legal obligations, including on equalities.
There are some settings where the NHS COVID Pass should not be used as a condition of entry, in order to ensure access for all. This includes essential services and essential retailers which have been able to stay open throughout the pandemic.
Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app or to continue collecting customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace. However, this will no longer be a legal requirement.
Social distancing to end
I am not sure how I feel about coming into close proximity with everyone once again. It has been strange being close to people on London transport, but social distancing is now coming to an end.
Unfortunately, you can still catch COVID-19 in England and there is a risk you could catch or pass on the virus, even if you are fully vaccinated. You are encouraged to exercise caution and consider the risks, but with social distancing to end, you will need to mitigate these however best you can.
The Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. Otherwise, the legal restrictions are due to end on July 19th.
I personally will be wearing a mask on public transport and in shops. However, we all know that the masks are to protect others and so this relaxing of the rules will be of particular concern to anyone who is clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable.
Holidays are back
From Monday, those who are fully inoculated against the virus will be able to travel to amber list countries without having to isolate when they return to England
The travel traffic light system – including quarantine for those arriving from red-list countries, will remain in place. It seems the rules have been loosened for the double-jabbed.
Get tested and self isolate
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you will still be asked to self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. You should self-isolate at home while you book the test and wait for the results. You must self-isolate if you test positive. Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms), and the next 10 full days. This is the law.
The most important symptoms of COVID-19 are the recent onset of any of the following:
a new continuous cough
a high temperature
a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
For most people, COVID-19 will be a mild illness. However, if you have any of the symptoms above, even if your symptoms are mild, stay at home and arrange to have a test.
You must also self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace, for example, if you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive. This remains the law, regardless of your vaccination status.
From 16 August, if you have been fully vaccinated you will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if you are a contact of a positive case. You will instead be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible.
You will also be exempt from self-isolation from 16 August if you are under 18 and a contact of a positive case. As with adults, you will be advised whether a PCR test needs to be taken. If you are 18 years old you will be treated in the same way as under 18-year-olds until 4 months after your 18th birthday, to allow you the opportunity to get fully vaccinated.
If you test positive you will still need to self-isolate regardless of your vaccination status or age.
When self-isolating, follow the stay-at-home guidance. This will help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to other members of your household and community. You must stay at home at all times and not have contact with other people. There are only very limited circumstances when you do not have to do this, such as seeking medical assistance. If you do leave your home during your period of self-isolation for a permitted reason, you should maintain social distancing and keep 2 metres apart from other people.
NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme
You may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you are required to stay at home and self-isolate, or you are the parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate. Visit your local authority website for details on Test & Trace Support Payments and practical support offered in your area.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable
Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to follow the same guidelines as everyone else. However, as someone who is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill myself. I know that it still is a rather scary time with the relaxation of the rules, You should think particularly carefully about precautions you can continue to take. However, I know that all of these guidelines relaxing means that it not ‘Freedom Day’ for many of us as we know have to take more precautions than ever.
All adults in England have now been offered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. They give you the best protection against COVID-19.
If you have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, do think about how to get vaccinated. It usually takes around two to three weeks for an antibody response to develop. You need two doses of vaccine for maximum protection against COVID-19.
We all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect others and to reduce the risk of new variants developing and spreading.
This advice will help us protect our friends, families, and communities, including those who have been vaccinated.
However, even if you have been fully vaccinated, you could still get COVID-19 and get sick – a recent PHE report shows that around 1 in 5 people who are double-vaccinated are still vulnerable to getting infected with the Delta variant and showing symptoms. You can also still spread COVID-19 to others.