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5 Jul, 2021 16:24

England’s legal Covid-19 restrictions to be dropped in two weeks, PM Johnson says, despite warning ‘more deaths’ on way

England’s legal Covid-19 restrictions to be dropped in two weeks, PM Johnson says, despite warning ‘more deaths’ on way

Nearly all of the remaining Covid-19 curbs in England, including all legal restrictions, will be lifted on July 19 despite an increase in cases and the expectation of more deaths from the virus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Face masks will no longer be required on public transport, nightclubs will reopen and the limit on group sizes in private homes to six people will all be scrapped, Johnson told a press conference on Monday.

Other limits on the number of people at weddings and funerals will also end, as will social distancing requirements and limiting bars and restaurants to table-service only.

Johnson said England was still seeing a rising number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions, warning that there could be 50,000 cases per day by July 19.

“We must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid,” he said, adding that the government must take a “careful and balanced” decision on restrictions.

Johnson said he expects the government will be able to lift the majority of remaining restrictions on July 19, with a review of the latest health data set for July 12.

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The national test, trace and isolate system will remain in operation from July 19, Johnson said, although the government is looking at different arrangements for fully-vaccinated people and for children. People must still self-isolate if they test positive for the virus or are ordered to quarantine by NHS Test and Trace.

The PM also indicated that restrictions could be re-introduced down the line.

"I didn't want people to feel that this is, as it were, the moment to get demob happy... it is very far from the end of dealing with this virus," Johnson said.

"Obviously, if we do find another variant that doesn't respond to the vaccines... then clearly, we will have to take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public."

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As the restrictions are lifted, the government will no longer require people to work from home and a limit on the number of people allowed to visit care homes will be dropped. An announcement is set to be made this week by the UK’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on the possible end of so-called classroom “bubbles” which are designed to protect schools from Covid outbreaks.

Johnson said the pace of the UK’s vaccine rollout would also speed up so that people under 40 years of age will be offered their second dose eight weeks after their first, as opposed to the current 12-week interval.

Speaking alongside the PM on Monday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned of the potential pressure Covid-19 may place on the National Health Service (NHS) next winter. “This coming winter may be very difficult for the NHS, and I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial point,” he said.

On Monday the UK reported a further nine deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, and more than 27,000 new infections. The current rate of infection is 230 per 100,000 people, and in the last seven days there has been a 50% increase in new cases compared to the previous week, according to the latest government data.

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