Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the Government is going ahead with the fourth and final stage of its ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on July 19th, saying there will “never be a perfect time” to end restrictions: “If not now, then when?”
It has, however, become quite clear why ministers have decided to “tone down Freedom Day rhetoric“, as large indoor venues in England have been urged to tell customers to show vaccine passports before being granted entry this summer. The day we were told would be the “terminus date” for restrictions in England will instead be a partial easing of restrictions that in all likelihood will return in winter. The Guardian has more.
Speaking to MPs, the Health Secretary confirmed the Government’s plan on July 19th to lift almost all the remaining legal restrictions put in place during the pandemic, including those covering mask-wearing and the size of social gatherings.
But his tone was noticeably more downbeat than a week ago, when he told MPs, “freedom is in our sights once again”.
The vaccine certification plan, in which venues will be “supported and encouraged” by Government to use the NHS app to check up on their customers, was the most concrete sign of a change of tack.
A review of Covid certification had been carried out by the Cabinet Office, under Michael Gove, but ministers had concluded previously that the scheme would not be immediately necessary, and should be held in reserve for the autumn.
Instead, with only a week to go until mass events will be allowed to go ahead, and venues such as nightclubs can reopen, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government would be in touch with businesses to encourage them to implement Covid checks at the door.
He suggested customers could either show that they have been double-vaccinated, or had a positive PCR test within the past six months – or could carry out a lateral flow test and show the email they received after reporting a negative result.
Javid said the Government was acting “in a measured way,” and had only proceeded because its four tests – on vaccines, hospitalisations, NHS capacity and new variants – have been met.
He said July 19th would be, “a major milestone for this country, taking us another step closer to the lives we used to lead”.
He conceded that infection rates are likely to get worse before they get better – potentially hitting 100,000 a day – but said the vaccination programme had “severely weakened” the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths. …
He said moving now offered, “the best possible chance of a return to normal life”.
The events industry is likely to respond with exasperation at being given such short notice to implement the scheme. The PM’s spokesman stressed it was already “up and running” because it had been tried at a series of pilot events.
Ministers have also underlined the continued importance of mask-wearing in all indoor, crowded spaces in recent days, despite the decision to lift legal restrictions.
And employers are being encouraged to act cautiously when it comes to ordering office staff back to the workplace.
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