What was announced today?
Ministers have confirmed the long-awaited plan to go ahead with the final stage of unlocking Covid in England from July 19. This will imply the end of more or less all national legal restrictions. All companies will be able to open, without the capacity limits related to Covid, and mitigation measures such as the use of masks and social distancing will be left to the personal responsibility of the people. However, there have been some shifts in focus over the past week when it comes to voluntary measures.
What mandatory restrictions will remain in effect?
Just a handful. This includes the need for self-isolation if you test positive for coronavirus, or if you have been in close contact with someone who does, although the latter will end as of August 16 for those under 18 and those who have received a second Covid vaccine. at least 10 days before contact. Border restrictions will also remain in effect, depending on the state of the country from which people have traveled.
Has anything changed with the masks?
While the rules on masks are the same as Boris Johnson announced a week ago, it is completely voluntary, the language has become considerably tougher, and ministers say that people are “expected” to cover their faces in crowded indoor areas such as the public. transport and shops. However, while train and transit operators can make wearing the mask a condition of transportation, officials say there is no legal basis for store owners, even those who are clinically vulnerable, to prevent shopkeepers. who have no mask. There are not even rules for pharmacies, where staff sometimes conduct face-to-face inquiries and examinations.
What about returning to workplaces?
Once again, while all obligation to work from home will end, Downing Street’s view is that the government will “wait and recommend” a gradual return to offices, and many of those who can work from home will continue to do so over the summer. In the coming days, there will be six pieces of guidance in the workplace for the next stage of unlocking, for various sectors of the economy. But as with store personnel, employees who are clinically vulnerable or have a compromised immune system will not have the right to demand that they work from home, even if their workplace is not socially distanced and their colleagues do not wear masks. They are still encouraged to contact their employers.
Any guide to mass events, nightclubs and the like?
Yes, and this is a definite change from a week ago. So-called “bigger” events, and those where many people will mingle indoors, are encouraged to introduce certification measures, also known as Covid passports. This would mean that customers would have to try a second vaccine at least 10 days in advance, or a recent negative or positive antibody test for Covid. Officials are somewhat vague about what kinds of events are expected to do this, but in addition to nightclubs and festivals, it could also cover football games and even pubs or bars.
What is stopping companies from simply ignoring certification?
Nothing. Officials acknowledge that if a nightclub decides to pack any number of customers up to the fire limit seven days a week, without checking a single Covid app, then as of July 19 it could do so. Certification will be “encouraged”, with work done in conjunction with industry bodies. The government documents said ministers “will consider requiring” the NHS Covid Pass if “sufficient measures are not taken to limit the infection.”
But with just a week’s notice, and the additional staff and time costs of checking in with each client, it remains to be seen how widespread acceptance will be.
What formal updates to the guidance can we expect?
A few. On Monday, a series of articles from Sage and Spi-M from last week will be published, as well as a fairly short document formally outlining what is changing and what measures are being maintained. On Monday or Tuesday, there will be counseling for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, although it will likely be limited to fairly basic advice, such as meeting people outdoors, checking if the people you are meeting with are vaccinated, and asking your GP if you have questions. . Finally, six sectoral councils on returning to work will arrive in the coming days.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism