In a much-anticipated announcement, UK PM Boris Johnson has told MPs that some coronavirus restrictions can be lifted starting on July 4th and many businesses will be reopening.
Restaurants, pubs and hairdressers will be reopening in England from 4th July, as can cinemas, museums and other attractions. Social distancing rules will have to be applied, but the distance will be reduced from 2m to 1m, in line with most other European countries.
Close proximity venues like indoor gyms and theatres will not yet be reopening, because of the number of surfaces customers will touch and the “much greater risk of infection” as a result people breathing harder.
There was discussion of those areas of the economy reopening “within weeks if we can.”
For the moment, though theatres and concert halls will be reopening to show recorded shows from July 4th, live performance will not be allowed because of issues around socially distancing performers. Churches will be reopening for religious services but singing will not be allowed.
Some sports including football will be reopening from July 4th, but not cricket as “the ball is a natural vector of disease.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says from July 4th the 2m rule is to be relaxed to “one metre plus” where 2m is not possible, though people will be encouraged to have measures in place to reduce transmission. The government says it will publish the scientific basis for reducing the 2m rule to 1m later this week.
The following types of business will be reopening from July 4th
- Bed and Breakfast
- Holiday homes
- Caravan parks
- Boarding houses
- Places of worship
- Workplace canteens
- Pubs and bars. All hospitality indoors will be limited to table service, and contact between staff and customers will be limited.
- Museums and galleries
- Outdoor playgrounds
- Funfairs and Bingo halls
- Theme parks
- Amusement arcades
- Model villages
- Weddings will be allowed to have 30 attendees
- Hair salons and barbers will be able to reopen but must put protective measures such as visors in place
Other types of business will not yet be reopening from July 4th including:
- Bowling alleys
- Indoor play areas eg softplay
- Nail bars
- Tattoo parlours
- Indoor fitness and gyms
- Swimming pools
- Conference centres
Boris Johnson emphasised that the reopening on July 4th will have to be conducted with caution, and that the relaxation of restrictions might have to be considered if there is a new peak in coronavirus infections.
Rules of reopening
He said: “From the outset we have trusted in the common sense and perseverance of the British people.
“We have been clear that our cautious relaxation of the guidance is entirely conditional on our continued defeat of the virus.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the number of new infections is now declining by between 2 percent and 4 percent every day.
“We created a human shield around the NHS and in turn our doctors and nurses have protected us.”
But he added: “As we have seen in other countries, there will be flare-ups” and the government “will not hesitate” to reapply restrictions at local or national levels if necessary. He urged people to continue with hygiene measures such as washing hands and staying 2m away from others where possible after reopening on July 4th.
But he concluded: “Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end… the bustle is starting to come back.”
The number of coronavirus infections has fallen dramatically, with just over 1,000 new cases a day on average, compared to an estimated 100,000 at the peak at the end of March. However, this is much more than France, Germany and Italy, leading to experts including former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King voicing concerns that restrictions are easing too quickly and reopening on July 4th brings risks of a ‘second peak’.
Concerns over reopening
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he had concerns about gaps in the current test and trace system, including the absence of a contact-tracing app. The government recently announced that it was changing the technical basis of the NHS contact tracing app, and that it would now not be ready in the near future and certainly not in time for reopening on July 4th.
Continued safety measures being suggested after reopening include pubs, bars and restaurants taking customers’ contact details so they can be informed if someone nearby later tests positive for the coronavirus.
Speaking of this suggestion, Boris Johnson said he wanted people “to take advantage of the freedoms that they are rightly reacquiring, but I must stress that people should act in a responsible way.
“I do think that is something that people get and as far as possible we want people to do that and we want businesses to comply with that,” he said.
“I believe it is very, very important for our ability to track back and stop outbreaks happening.”
Government advice is that after reopening on July 4th people who can work from home should continue to do so, and Keir Starmer said that any return to work should be ‘safe’ and ‘enforced’.
People in England will also be allowed to meet another household indoors from July 4th, subject to social distancing. The meetings do not always have to be with the same household, but only one household can meet one other at any time.
Boris Johnson emphasised: “At every stage, caution will remain our watch word. Each step will be conditional and reversible… We cannot lift all the restrictions at once”, and “The fewer social contacts you have the safer you will be.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford have said that the 2m rule will remain in place in their nations for the moment.
You can read more here about the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s much-anticipated announcement that some coronavirus restrictions can be lifted starting on July 4th and many areas of the economy will be reopening.