Prime Minister confirms end to COVID legal restrictions
Boris Johnson has confirmed legal restrictions imposed as a result of coronavirus will end in England when the country moves to the final phase of its route map out of lockdown.
This includes an end to legal limits on the number of people meeting indoors and outdoors, the one metre social distancing rule and the obligation to wear face masks.
It is expected this step will be taken on 19 July.
The Prime Minister said this was part of a move to increase personal responsibility instead of the government seeking to control behaviour.
Johnson said: “We’ll move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus.”
However, “strengthened guidance” will be made available to help people manage these decisions.
This will include information on where a face covering is advised, for example on crowded public transport, though there will be no obligation to follow that advice.
Johnson added: “We will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring.”
The Scottish Government is not set to ease these same restrictions.
It instead plans to move to level zero on 19 July, before a further easing to near normal on 9 August.
A spokesperson has said such measures will be kept under review, but that there will be an “ongoing need” for face coverings in shops and on public transport after that date.
They said: “As the First Minister has set out, we will have to manage living with COVID-19 for some time to come, even when we are able to move beyond level zero.
“There will still be some ongoing need for face coverings, for example on public transport and in retail, and we will be working with sectors to establish baseline mitigations and produce further guidance by end of July.”
The Prime Minister also announced the red list for international travel will be maintained, but arrivals from those countries who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to self-isolate.
He also confirmed the track, trace and isolate system will remain in place, though there will be changes to isolation rules for double vaccinated people and children.
And in a bid to get more adults fully vaccinated more quickly, the time between the first and second dose is set to be reduce from 12 weeks to eight weeks.
It is hoped every adult in the UK will be fully vaccinated by mid-September.
The statement comes as case numbers in the UK, particularly in Scotland, continue to rise.
On Monday, 2,372 new cases were confirmed in Scotland and six Scottish health boards were listed among the top ten worst-hit regions in Europe by the World Health Organization.
Johnson said it was important to “balance the risks” of the disease and continued restrictions, acknowledging that case numbers could be as high as 50,000 per day in the UK by 19 July.
The Scottish Greens have urged the Scottish Government not to follow suit, warning the removal of restrictions would be an “abdication of duty”.
Health spokesperson Gillian Mackay said: “Scotland has the highest rates of infection in Europe according to the World Health Organization. We simply cannot afford to follow an approach which regards increasing this further as collateral. With only half the population fully vaccinated, letting the virus run free is putting people at risk.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have said the people and businesses of Scotland should not pay for the “failures” of the Scottish Government in not keeping case numbers low.
Leader Douglas Ross said: “It would be completely unforgivable if the SNP’s failure to get on top of rising cases, their failure to support an effective Test and Protect system and their failures in getting vaccines in people’s arms fast enough meant further devastating delays for individuals and businesses.
“The SNP must relentlessly focus on getting on top of current outbreaks to guarantee Scotland will move to level zero on 19 July.”