Everything you can and can’t do from TODAY July 19 Freedom Day as nightclubs open with a bang at midnight
TODAY will see England enter the final step in Boris Johnson's roadmap to freedom, as nightclubs can finally reopen with a bang.
From Monday, July 19, social distancing, working from home and compulsory face masks are scrapped – while holidays are back on, although with strict conditions and a very big exception.
Meanwhile, nightclubs threw open their doors at midnight, from 00.01 on July 19 – for the first time since March 2020.
The PM announced last Monday that the big day could go ahead as planned, despite soaring Covid infections in the UK.
But on Sunday Johnson begged the public for a "cautious" end to lockdown amid the "extremely contagious Delta variant".
He said: "We've got to do it cautiously. We've got to remember that this virus is sadly still out there.
"Cases are rising, we can see the extreme contagiousness of the Delta variant.
"But we have this immense satisfaction that the vaccine programme has very severely weakened the link between infection and hospitalisation, and between infection and serious illness and death.
"So please, please, please be cautious and go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people.
"And above all, please, please, please, when you're asked to get that second jab, get the jab, please come forward and do it."
The PM will not address the nation today on the day of unlocking – as experts warned that lockdown measures could return as soon as September.
Here's everything you can do on Monday.
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
SIX BIG FREEDOMS RETURNING TODAY
MASKS OFF (MOSTLY)
Brits will no longer receive a fine if they don’t wear a face covering.
But it's much more complicated than it first appears.
The latest guidance, issued on Wednesday, says the Government "expects and recommends" masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces such as public transport.
And London's mayor has now announced commuters will banned from taking Tubes, trains or buses without a mask.
Sadiq Khan said: "I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk."
Outside of the capital, commuters will largely be encouraged to wear a mask while on a bus or train.
People in West and South Yorkshire will have to continue wearing face masks in bus stations, while passengers using the Metro in the North East will also be required to wear a face covering.
Travellers using Metrolink in Manchester or the Heathrow Express must cover up, while the same is demanded of Eurostar passengers.
Uber also insists passengers are covered up.
Meanwhile, those lucky – or brave – enough to be heading abroad are also likely to have to don masks, with BA, easyJet and Ryanair all insisting on coverings.
But other companies confirmed they will not make masks compulsory, including Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express and Southeastern.
Major bus and coach companies including National Express and Megabus have also followed suit and won't insist on a mask.
However, supermarkets do want their customers to carry on wearing masks.
Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons and Waitrose say they'll encourage shoppers and staff to keep up with their face coverings.
Finally, staff, patients and visitors to all NHS settings – including hospitals and GP surgeries – must continue to keep their masks on and socially distance too.
SOCIAL DISTANCING SCRAPPED
The one-metre-plus social distancing rule will be scrapped on July 19 in a huge boost for the hospitality industry.
There will be no limits on how many people can meet socially, or where they can meet. This applies to weddings, funerals and other life events.
Punters will finally be allowed to mingle and stand once again, while ordering from the bar will also be permitted.
Some clubs were reopening at midnight on Sunday as the Great British night out makes a roaring return.
It comes as a huge boost to the hospitality industry, which has struggled to make a profit with limited capacity allowed indoors due to social distancing regulations.
In an address to Brits earlier this month, the PM said: "If we don't go ahead now, when the summer fire break is coming up, the school holidays, all the advantages, that that should give us in fighting the virus, the question is, when will we go ahead?"
NO MORE QR CODES
Punters will no longer need to check in to venues by scanning a QR code using the Test and Trace app.
There will no longer be a legal requirement for Covid certification for any setting – though businesses will be permitted to continue to use the app if they wish to do so.
It came after complaints from hospitality bosses that the app is leading to staff shortages as increasing number of employees are “pinged” and told to self-isolate.
Half a million people in England have been forced to self-isolate in the first week of July alone amid claims neighbours are being told to stay home unnecessarily as they're being 'pinged' through walls.
Patrick Langmaid of holiday camp Mother Ivey's Bay in Padstow, Cornwall told Good Morning Britain he was just "six pings" away from closing with 900 bookings – after asking guests to clean the loos.
Meanwhile, punters will be able to order from the bar again after months of table service.
BACK TO THE OFFICE
Brits will be heading back to the office from July 19 after months of remote working.
Previous guidance stated that employees who could work from home had to do so – despite swathes of the economy being open.
But the rules changed from July 19 to allow firms to tell employees how and where they should work.
The move comes as a boost for city centres, with many businesses seeing a plunge in revenue due to the lack of commuters.
RULE OF SIX SCRAPPED
The Rule of Six will finally be scrapped in a huge boost for the hospitality industry.
Groups of more than 30 people are also allowed to meet up as limits on large gatherings are eased.
And that means nightclubs, strip clubs, shisha bars and music venues can finally reopen after being forced to close their doors in March last year.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) welcomed the "very important steps" of lifting restrictions "which have decimated the night time economy over the last sixteen months".
FESTIVALS BACK ON
Mass events, including festivals, are allowed from July 19, the PM confirmed.
Festivals and concerts have been cancelled for the past 18 months as a result of social distancing restrictions.
However, it's believed vaccine passports may be required.
All Points East, Parklife and Reading and Leeds festivals are among those going ahead this summer.
DOUBLE-JABBED BRITS CAN SKIP QUARANTINE
Buckle up if you're hoping to head away this summer – there's a lot to know.
Summer breaks have been thrown into chaos as countries move around the UK's travel 'traffic light' system.
And the situation has become even more complicated after travellers returning from France were told they'll have to comply with quarantine – even if they're fully vaccinated.
Officials recently announced that double-jabbed Brits will be able to skip quarantine when travelling back from amber-listed countries.
In theory, it means countries on the current amber list – like Spain, Portugal and Greece – will finally reopen to sun-seekers desperate for a beach break.
But that's become murkier in recent days.
The big question mark hangs over trips to France. The country isn't on the red list – but even English and Welsh tourists with both inoculations have been told they will still need to quarantine from Monday.
That's because of concerns over "persistent" cases of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.
The mutation may be more resistant to vaccines.
Meanwhile, Ibiza, Menorca and Majorca have been moved to the amber list from green, with the change coming into effect on Monday.
It won't matter for fully-vaccinated Brits, who still won't have to quarantine when they return home.
But many of those on breaks in the party islands are young – and the update is forcing holidaymakers to race for tests and flights in a bid to get home on time.
Along with the Balearic Islands, the British Virgin Islands move from the green to amber on Monday.
Bulgaria and Hong Kong join the green list. Croatia and Taiwan join the green watchlist, meaning they're at risk of being moved to amber.
Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone move to the strictest red list.
These changes apply to people travelling to all parts of the UK.
Scotland and Wales continue to advise against non-essential overseas travel. Northern Ireland advises people to "avoid travelling as much as possible".
NO MORE SCHOOL BUBBLES
Much-loathed school bubbles will be popped in August – meaning that kids can mix freely with their pals when they return to class in September.
Under the current rules, pupils have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble tests positive for the Covid-19 virus.
In some cases, this has meant that entire year groups have been sent home following an outbreak at a school.
It has led to concerns many students are missing school unnecessarily with almost 50 MPs calling for the rule to be scrapped.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced bubbles would be replaced by focused testing and contact tracing from August 16.
Staggered start and finish times at schools will also be dropped.
SELF-ISOLATION SCRAPPED FOR DOUBLE-JABBED BRITS
Elsewhere, double-jabbed Brits won't have to isolate after contact with an infected person from August.
The mandatory 10-day quarantine for those in close contact with a case will be torn up, but not yet.
It means anyone alerted by Test and Trace or the NHS App must — by law — isolate at home for a month to come, even if they test negative.
From next month, the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid says those who test positive will still have to self-isolate for 10 days – even if they're jabbed.
And close contacts will still be urged to get a gold-standard PCR test to "get certainty" that they're not infected.
Spelling out the rules in the Commons Mr Javid said that anyone who gets their second dose on the cusp of August 16 will still need to wait two weeks so the extra protection can kick in.
He also confirmed under-18s – who are not eligible for vaccines – will also be able to avoid quarantine if they come into contact with a Covid case.
He said: "Instead they'll be given advice about whether they should get tested, dependent on their age and will need to self-isolate only if they test positive."
There's lots of anger out there about the so-called Covid contact 'pingdemic'.
Half a million people in England have been forced to self-isolate in the first week of July alone – amid claims neighbours are being told to stay home unnecessarily as they're being 'pinged' through walls.
The NHS's test and trace app is being blamed, with some claiming it's simply too sensitive.
In total, 530,126 alerts were sent in the most recent week – up a whopping 46 per cent on the week before.
The number is more than 10 times as many as in the week to June 2. In the final week of April, only 39,875 close contacts were identified.
One in five hospitality and retail workers are self-isolating, while NHS hospitals are struggling with up 25 per cent of their staff off.
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