Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic during a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street on March 18, 2021 in London, England.
Tolga Akmen – WPA Pool | Getty Images
LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday detailed the final steps in the easing of England’s lockdown rules, with a final decision due to be taken on July 12.
“If we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and the school holidays, we must ask ourselves ‘when will we be able to reopen?'” Johnson told a press briefing at Downing Street.
“Freedom Day” — or “Step 4” in the government’s long-term plan to ease restrictions — will take place on July 19 if the government’s “four tests” for easing Covid restrictions are met.
The tests include looking at data to confirm that the vaccine rollout is continuing successfully, and that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalizations. These will be assessed on July 12 following a review of the latest data.
Johnson said Monday that there would be no limits on how many people can meet socially, or where they can meet. He said that regulations mandating face masks would be lifted and people would no longer be instructed to work from home.
All remaining businesses that are currently closed, like nightclubs, would be allowed to reopen and social-distancing rules would also end.
Johnson reiterated that Covid will become a virus that we learn to live with as we already do with flu, conceding that a reopening would likely lead to more deaths.
“It has grown ever clearer that these vaccines are indeed successful with the majority of those admitted to hospital unvaccinated.”
The lifting of restrictions in England had previously been slated for June 21 but was delayed as the highly transmissible delta variant spread throughout the U.K.
While infection rates have risen, hospitalizations and deaths have not surged, indicating that coronavirus vaccines are working to prevent severe infections.
The British government has previously signaled a reluctance to keep restrictions in place any longer than is strictly necessary. This is despite some concerns among medical experts and opposition politicians that restrictions could be lifted too soon as the variant spreads in the U.K., Europe and beyond.
Britain’s Covid immunization program has been one of the fastest in the world, with 86% of the adult population now having received a first dose of a vaccine, and 63.8% having received two doses, government data shows.