Prime Minister Boris Johnson will later this afternoon, be confirming plans to lift all COVID-19 related restrictions on July 19. Ahead of that news conference, Mr. Johnson is urging the public to be cautious even as society opens up next week.
We must all take responsibility so we don't undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS. We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.
On Friday the latest government figures showed an increase of 35,707 COVID cases across the UK—the highest daily figure since 22 January.
The PM is warning that these numbers may continue to increase when almost all legal restrictions on social contact are relaxed next week.
Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message must be clear. Caution is absolutely vital...
What to expect
The PM's news conference is expected to present the latest data which suggests hospital admissions, serious illnesses and deaths from Covid-19 will continue, but at a lower level than before the vaccination programme.
From July 19, social distancing and face masks will not be mandatory and there will no longer be a six-person threshold on indoor meetings. There will also be full crowds at sports and entertainment events.
The changes on 19 July are also expected to signal a reopening of nightclubs, pubs being allowed to serve people at the bar and capacity limits at concerts, theatres, or places of worship would be lifted.
Masks to stay on
However, medical professionals are warning that some measures such as wearing of face coverings in crowded places should stay in place.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it would be dangerous for life to return to pre-COVID normal.
...the rising numbers of people requiring hospital treatment, in intensive care and sadly deaths are starting to rise again, too. There seems to be a misapprehension that life will return to normal from then and that we can throw away all the precautions and, frankly, that would be dangerous.
The government has softened its hitherto hard stance on lifting all statutory restrictions on July 19 amidst growing concern over the spike in cases, especially with the deadlier Delta variant.
Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News:
The guidelines that we will set out will demonstrate that ( the need to remain cautious), including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces, and of course to remain vigilant.
Downing Street had earlier said the rescheduling of the final stage of the lockdown—which was originally slated for June 21—had made it possible to have an additional 6.8 million people getting the first or second vaccine doses.