Boris Johnson to relax coronavirus lockdown laws today: What could change in England

Boris Johnson is to set out plans to allow pubs, restaurants, museums and cinemas to begin re-opening in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 7:41 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 7:42 am

The Prime Minister is publishing the Government's keenly-awaited review of the two-metre social-distancing rule on Tuesday, amid widespread expectations it will be cut to one metre.

He will brief the Cabinet on the proposals - due to take effect from July 4 - before setting out details in a Commons statement.

The move follows intense pressure from some Tory MPs who have said easing the two-metre requirement is key to re-opening the hard pressed hospitality sector.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Pubs reopening

Many pubs and restaurants have warned that it would simply not be viable for them to operate as long as the rule remains in place.

Some scientists have, however, expressed concern the Government is moving too quickly, and that its track-and-trace system to contain any fresh outbreaks is not fully up and running.

Lucy Yardley, professor of health psychology at the University of Bristol and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Newsnight there was a "danger" that some people thought lockdown had ended.

Professor Yardley said "you could argue that we were never so much listening to the Government as doing what we thought was right at the right time" and added it "would be much harder" to impose lockdown for a second time.

Drinkers at pubs and bars in England may have to leave their names and contact details in a guest book so they can be swiftly traced if they come into contact with a punter who tests positive for coronavirus.

Diners leaving their contact details at restaurants when making reservations could also play a role in helping tracers track down possible cases so they can self-isolate for 14 days.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that no decision on the guest books had been made but said it was being considered, as well as customers being encouraged to order drinks through apps.

Cinemas, museums and galleries reopening

With ministers desperate to restart the stalled economy, detailed sector-by-sector guidance will be published for businesses in England - from hotels to hairdressers - on how to re-open in a Covid-secure manner.

Elements of the arts and culture sector will also benefit from the easing - including cinemas, museums and art galleries - which will be able to begin welcoming back visitors under the latest stage of the Government's road map for lifting the lockdown.

It could mean introducing one-way systems, spaced queuing, increased ventilation, and pre-booked tickets to ensure people can return safely.

Elsewhere, ministers having suggested installing perspex screens, altering seating arrangements and requiring the wearing of face coverings to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease as the rules are eased.

Rules on people shielding

The 2.2 million people in England who are currently shielding can meet in groups from July 6, the Health Secretary has said - with shielding coming to a stop at the end of July.

Matt Hancock said shielding had been "incredibly tough" as he set out how those who have been in the most vulnerable category will be able to meet in groups of up to six people outdoors, and some can form a "support bubble" with another household.

Food and support packages for those who have been shielding will stop at the end of July.

The new guidance says that from July 6, those shielding from coronavirus can meet with people outside of their household outdoors in groups of six - as long as social distancing is maintained.

People who are shielding and live alone, or are single parents with children, will also be able to create a "support bubble" with one other household of any size, in line with rules already in place for the wider population.

Support packages will stop at the end of July, but people will retain their priority for supermarket delivery slots, and can still access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments, according to the Department for Health and Social Care.

Those who need to work and cannot do so from home will also be able to return to work, as long as their workplace is Covid-secure.

Statutory sick pay will end at the end of July.

Cinemas, museums and art galleries

Cinemas, museums and art galleries will be able to begin re-opening their doors from next month.

It is now expected there will be guidance for sections of the arts and cultural sector on how they can welcome back visitors under the latest stage of the Government's road map for lifting the lockdown.

It could mean cinemas and museums introducing one-way systems, spaced queuing, increased ventilation, and pre-booked tickets to ensure people can return safely.

A No 10 source said: "We are only able to move forward this week because the vast majority of people have taken steps to control the virus.

"But the more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social distancing guidelines. We will not hesitate to reverse these steps if it is necessary to stop the virus running out of control."

Two metre rule could be cut

The Government's decision over whether to relax the two metre social distancing rules in England will be revealed on Tuesday.

The country's closed bars, pubs and restaurants, have been leading the calls for a one metre reduction in social distancing if they are allowed to reopen from July 4.

The hospitality industry argues that operating with the two metre restriction is not financially viable, due to the limits in place on safe numbers of customers and staff in indoor spaces.

Those working in the sector say a one metre reduction would save thousands of jobs, but have warned that even with this change trade is only expected to be at just over half the level compared to the year before.

Reducing the two metre social distancing restriction could also allow schools in England to reopen fully by September.

Although primary schools were encouraged to open to more pupils from June 1, many school leaders said they were not able to because of a lack of space for distancing.

Easing the restriction may enable more children to return to their education and also allow parents to return to work, especially those who cannot afford childcare.