Freedom Day changes: Social distancing, working from home, and masks


People in England will tomorrow emerge from lockdown with the government’s final major easing of restrictions – but so called ‘Freedom Day’ will come with a note of caution.

Just over four months after setting off on the government’s roadmap, last week Boris Johnson confirmed that the country could finally make its much-awaited last step towards freedom on Monday, July 19.

‘We think now is the right moment to proceed’ he said in press conference statement, before warning: ‘It is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution.’

For the much-touted end to face masks and scrapping of social distancing has given way under reports of over 50,000 new Covid cases a day – a result of the rapidly spreading Delta variant – and rising hospitalisations.

While the law may be changing, as the Mail will highlight here, the government, other public bodies and businesses have started issuing strong guidance for people who are travelling, shopping or out socialising.

The Prime Minister’s tone has also changed, and he no longer says ‘cautious, but irreversible’ when referring to unlocking the country, with fears of a return of restrictions in the autumn.

Mr Johnson will not even be out celebrating ‘Freedom Day’ or making his previously planned Churchillian speech – he is having to isolate after being pinged due to his contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who recently tested positive for Covid.

The revelation about Mr Johnson being collared by Test and Trace has sent alarm bells ringing over a ‘pingdemic’ at the heart of government and beyond – a huge dampener to what was meant to be a celebratory end of a hard slog.

Here, the Mail looks at the rules that are changing from tomorrow and what guidance has been issued to replace it in some areas:

People in England will tomorrow emerge from lockdown with the government’s final major easing of restrictions – but so called ‘Freedom Day’ will come with a note of caution 

But Boris Johnson will not be out celebrating 'Freedom Day' or making his previously planned Churchillian speech - he is having to isolate after being pinged due to his contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who recently tested positive for Covid

But Boris Johnson will not be out celebrating ‘Freedom Day’ or making his previously planned Churchillian speech – he is having to isolate after being pinged due to his contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who recently tested positive for Covid

FACE MASKS

Legal rules mandating the wearing of face masks will be axed.

However, despite ministers previously saying they want to ditch coverings as soon as they are voluntary, guidance will state that they are ‘expected and recommended’ in crowded spaces.

Guidance published last night said: ‘Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.’ 

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has broken rank to ordered they be kept compulsory on the Tube, buses and taxis. He was backed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who said he had ‘expected’ operators to put in place ‘conditions of carriage’ to ensure that passengers were safe on public transport.

Regional leaders such as Manchester mayor Andy Burnham have also said the restrictions would stay on transport in his city.

Private companies will be allowed to make them a requirement for entry, as Ryanair has already announced on its flights.

An ONS survey this week found that nearly two thirds of adults will continue to wear masks in shops and on public transport.

Passengers on the London underground and several other train lines Will still have to wear masks unless exempt ¿ after bosses defied the government's change to the law by putting in place their own guidance

Passengers on the London underground and several other train lines Will still have to wear masks unless exempt – after bosses defied the government’s change to the law by putting in place their own guidance

GOING TO PUBS

It will no longer be a legal requirement to scan a QR code on entry to a venue as part of the test and trace system. However, venues will be allowed to make use of the codes a requirement for entry if they choose.

It will also no longer be a legal requirement for pubs to require customers to order drinks at their tables.

However, some pub chains may continue this – meaning that people will still not be able to go to the bar if an individual pub bans it.

SOCIAL DISTANCING RULES

The one-metre rule will be scrapped in law – meaning fewer Perspex screens in offices.

It also means hospitality businesses like pubs and restaurants won’t have to limit customers to ensure they are spaced apart. 

But people are now being strongly advised to ‘minimise the number, proximity and duration of social contacts’.

Chris Whitty even suggested that people should avoid ‘unnecessary meetings’ – and said everyone should continue to abide by ‘hands, face, space’.

However, the one-metre rule will continue to be enforced at borders, such as in airports, amid concern over people coming into the country with variants. 

Social distancing rules in pubs and restaurants will be scrapped from tomorrow. The change will mean many businesses that were too small to open before will finally be able to open their doors (stock photo)

Social distancing rules in pubs and restaurants will be scrapped from tomorrow. The change will mean many businesses that were too small to open before will finally be able to open their doors (stock photo)

SELF-ISOLATION RULES

There had been hopes that the requirement for the double-jabbed to self-isolate for up to 10 days when they are ‘pinged’ for coming in contact with a positive case would be dropped from July 19.

However, that date was pushed back to August 16 by Health Secretary Sajid Javid amid concerns about fueling rising infection numbers.

The rules on self-isolation for those who have not had two doses are staying in place for the time being.

However, officials are working on ways of making the NHS app less sensitive to avoid millions of people being doomed to house arrest.

And ministers have said work is ongoing on a system of daily testing that could potentially replace the self-isolation regime.   

The governments 'work from home' message will be scrapped, but replaced with advice that any return to offices should be 'gradual' over the summer while cases are high

The governments ‘work from home’ message will be scrapped, but replaced with advice that any return to offices should be ‘gradual’ over the summer while cases are high

WORKING FROM HOME

The Government’s ‘work from home’ message will end and employers will be able to start to plan a return to workplaces, some having been empty since last March.

But the decision of course is still be up to individual employers.

Some may decide to continue with working from home for the foreseeable future, although city centre businesses such as cafes and retail have been hugely affected by the lack of office workers.

Government advice will also be that any return to offices should be ‘gradual’ over the summer while cases are high. 

The guidance states: ‘Whilst government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, government would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer.’ 

Although guidance to employers will be slimmed down, it will still encourage them to ensure rooms are properly ventilated to minimise risk.

CAP ON CARE HOME VISITS

The current restriction that people can only be seen by five named visitors will be scrapped.

But strict infection-control measures – such as the wearing of PPE and regular cleaning – will continue, with more detail to be announced later. 

Restrictions on festivals and other large outdoor events will also end, meaning Reading and Leeds and the Isle of Wight festival (pictured, 2017) will be allowed to go ahead later this year

Restrictions on festivals and other large outdoor events will also end, meaning Reading and Leeds and the Isle of Wight festival (pictured, 2017) will be allowed to go ahead later this year

COVID PASSPORTS

Covid status certification – so-called vaccine passports – will not be legally required within England.

It is being left up to individual venues to decide themselves whether to demand Covid status certification through the NHS App as a condition of entry.

The government is ‘encouraging’ the use of Covid certification for large events. 

Owners of busy indoor venues such as nightclubs and busy city-centre bars have been told to consider bringing in the passports.

The government will ‘encourage’ businesses and large events to use the NHS Covid Pass in ‘high risk settings’ – that is, where people are likely to be in ‘close proximity to others outside their household’.

Few details have been given, but the guidance could cover theatres, cinemas, indoor concerts and exhibitions. The government many consider mandating certification in certain venues at a later date. 

TRAVEL 

A new system to allow double-jabbed people to avoid quarantine after returning from amber-list countries will come into force from July 19 – with one big exception. 

A government U-turn announced on Friday night now means that even vaccinated Brits returning from France will have to quarantine – sparking fury as families were forced to cancel trips to France at the last-minute. 

From tomorrow, double-jabbed people can avoid quarantine after returning from amber-list countries. However, travellers from France, where there is a large number of Beta variant cases, will not be part of the rule relaxation

From tomorrow, double-jabbed people can avoid quarantine after returning from amber-list countries. However, travellers from France, where there is a large number of Beta variant cases, will not be part of the rule relaxation

RULE OF SIX

There will be no legal limits on social contact, meaning groups will not have to limit themselves to six people or two households if they are mixing indoors. 

Groups outdoors can be as large as people want them to be.

WEDDING AND FUNERAL CAP

The limits on attendance at weddings, funerals and other major life events are being scrapped.

Covid cases across the UK have soared by 52 per cent week-on-week, but the number of deaths has fallen slightly

Covid cases across the UK have soared by 52 per cent week-on-week, but the number of deaths has fallen slightly

Last week 26 people were recorded as having died from Covid, while figures released today showed 25 people had died of Covid in the last 24 hours

Last week 26 people were recorded as having died from Covid, while figures released today showed 25 people had died of Covid in the last 24 hours

This week's figures show 740 patients had been admitted with Covid on July 13, and 4,313 in the week to that date

This week’s figures show 740 patients had been admitted with Covid on July 13, and 4,313 in the week to that date

ART AND SPORT VENUE LIMITS

There will be no more restrictions on the size of an audience at a concert or a show, or a crowd at a sports fixture, which means theatres and stadiums can run at full capacity.

NIGHTCLUBS

All other legal requirements for venues to close will be lifted, allowing night-time industries – including nightclubs – to reopen for the first time since the pandemic began.

SINGING CURBS

No restrictions on singing, or even guidance to restrict it. It means singing by church choirs can continue – as can karaoke nights.

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