Sheffield reacts as Boris Johnson sets out five-point plan for lifting Covid restrictions

Boris Johnson today said we must ‘balance the risk’ from Covid with the harm of continuing with legal restrictions as he set out plans to lift the remaining lockdown measures.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 6:59 pm
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 7:23 pm

A final decision will be made next Monday, July 12, about whether to lift the final legal restrictions in place as planned on July 19, which has been dubbed Freedom Day.

The Prime Minister today held a press conference where he set out the Government’s five-point plan for ending restrictions and said if we cannot reopen society in the next few weeks we must ask ourselves ‘when will we be able to return to normal?’.

Should the final phase of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown go ahead as planned on July 19, having already been delayed once, nightclubs would finally be allowed to reopen and cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and other venues could return to full capacity.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during today's media briefing (pic: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during today's media briefing (pic: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire)

Sheffield theatres in no rush to return to full audiences as Government Covid restrictions set to end on July 19

The limit on the number of people allowed to meet both indoors and out would also be scrapped, as would the requirement to social distance and to wear face coverings in shops, on public transport and in other shared spaces.

Mr Johnson today said the pandemic was ‘far from over’ and would not be over on July 19, by which date forecasts suggest the daily number of confirmed cases could rise to 50,000.

But he added: “If we don’t go ahead now when we we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link between infection and death, if we don’t go ahead now when the summer firebreak is coming up, the school holidays, all the advantages that that should give us in fighting the virus, then the question is, ‘when would we go ahead?’ – particularly given the likelihood the virus will have an extra advantage in the colder months, in the autumn, and in the winter.

“So we run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage in the colder months, or again putting everything off to next year so I do think it’s going to be a very balanced decision next week.”

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, said vaccinations had ‘weakened but not completely broken’ the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths, which were increasing and were expected to continue to do so.

Mr Johnson said that while the legal requirement for face coverings would be lifted, guidance would remain in place about where you ‘might choose to do so’, for example on crowded trains and buses.

He added that the instruction to work from home would end and no Covid certification would be required as a condition of entry to any venue or event, but businesses could make use of certification.

Mr Johnson also revealed plans to end the need for isolation by children and fully vaccinated contacts of those testing positive, saying the education secretary would tomorrow set out in more detail how bubbles and contact isolation for pupils would be removed.

And he said that while travel restricions would remain, the Government intended to work with the travel industry to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate on their return from countries on the amber list.

South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis voiced concerns about lifting the requirement for face coverings.

He said: “I’m concerned that with case numbers rising exponentially, this is not the right time to drop the requirement to wear masks in enclosed spaces and on public transport.

“This could cause real anxiety for those who are particularly vulnerable but have no option other than to use public transport or work in enclosed spaces. The pandemic has made existing inequalities worse, and some occupations have been more exposed to the virus. This could yet again put these people more at risk.

“Masks are a simple and effective way to protect yourself and others from Covid, while trying to keep our country as open as possible.

“Any decision to lift these restrictions must be backed up by evidence that it’s safe to do so.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, meanwhile, today urged health secretary Sajid Javid to consider maintaining the requirement for face coverings.

“It seems nonsensical that the health secretary is content to scrap the requirement for masks on public transport and in essential shops, which are unavoidable for those vulnerable to severe illness, even though it has no impact on the economy, does not limit our freedoms, and reduces transmission. Rising hospitalisations from Covid will also delay tackling the backlog of treatment for other conditions,” he said.

“We must continue to act together to protect people, including those who are vulnerable and have shielded, and Government must put public health ahead of political dogma.”