Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference earlier this month that he hoped the national changes would be ‘irreversible’, but that ‘very exceptional circumstances’ such as a new variant of the coronavirus could mean the reintroduction of certain measures.
He warned that “this pandemic is not over” and that “we cannot just instantly come back to life as it was before COVID”.
But most of the restrictions that have ruled our lives for over a year no longer apply.
Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel all ask people to always wear masks on board, while some supermarkets have their own policies as well.
So what has changed?
Masks are now voluntary in settings, including stores, hotels and public transport. People will be asked to exercise their personal judgment.
While the legal requirement to cover their nose and mouth will be lifted, the government still advises people to wear them in crowded spaces such as buses, trains and streetcars.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said Transport for London will continue to impose the wearing of face masks on services in the capital.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said he will continue to wear a mask indoors and in certain outdoor environments where social distancing is not possible.
He also said he would wear a mask if “any competent authority” required it and “out of courtesy” to others who might feel uncomfortable.
The Prime Minister himself said during a press briefing in Downing Street:
“Tips will suggest where you might choose to do it – especially when cases increase and when you come into contact with people you don’t usually meet in confined spaces, like obviously crowded public transport.
Social distancing / hospitality
All businesses that had been closed – including nightclubs – will be able to reopen, with no capacity limit.
Mass events, such as music festivals, may resume. Singing in church will be permitted, and there will be no limit on the number of people at weddings and funerals.
Pub patrons can walk to the bar and be served there.
It will not be mandatory to scan a QR code when entering a restaurant, gym or other location, nor will businesses be required to collect customer contact tracing details, although they may choose to do so if they wish.
But companies that organize large-scale events such as festivals are “encouraged” to use COVID passports to record evidence of a negative test result or full vaccination prior to entry.
These will be voluntary at first, but could become a legal requirement over time, the prime minister said.
Support for Test and Trace is a “good thing,” Downing Street said, and the NHS app will still be used, although it will be made more “proportionate” under the new changes.
The “one meter plus” rule on social distancing will be lifted, except in specific circumstances such as at a border, where people from Red and Orange List countries will still be barred from mingling with each other.
Regarding home receptions, home parties will no longer be prohibited.
An isolation requirement after testing positive or after coming in contact with an infected person remains in place for those who are not fully vaccinated.
But as previously announced by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, those who are double-bitten – as well as those under 18 in England – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have come into close contact with COVID from August 16.
The only caveat is that individuals must allow two weeks to pass after having their second jab before being exempted.
Nonetheless, if a person who has received two jabs is positive for the coronavirus, they will still need to self-isolate for the allotted 10-day period.
The limit on the number of visitors has been removed.
But the number of visits per day will be limited and infection control measures will remain in place.
Work at home
The requirement for people to work from home if possible has been dropped.
When asked if there would be a legal right not to work if someone is concerned about their health, the prime minister’s spokesperson said the government was not introducing any new labor rights.
Travel without quarantine and school isolation
The school bubble system will be abolished in England from August 16.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said children contacted by Track and Trace as being a contact of someone who has tested positive will be asked to take a PCR test – but will only need to self-isolate if they are. they are positive.
High school and college students will have to take two tests on site at the start of the fall term and continue to take two tests per week at home until the end of September, when the policy will be reviewed.
From the fall term, fully immunized teachers can stay in school if close contact is positive.
Mr Johnson said there was “no easy answer or obvious date” to ease the restrictions, but school holidays and warmer weather act as a “natural firewall”.
UK residents who are fully vaccinated (14 days after their last dose) no longer have to self-isolate when returning to England from Green or Orange List countries.
They still need to take a test three days before returning and take a PCR test on the second day – but not the eighth day – as previously required.
There are different rules for travelers coming from France.
Children under 18 and people participating in COVID clinical trials no longer have to self-isolate or take an eight-day test.
Travelers who are not fully vaccinated must still take the pre-departure test, self-quarantine for 10 days upon their return to England, and take the day two and day eight tests.
The government has lifted the advice not to travel to Orange List countries, opening most European vacation destinations and the United States to leisure and business travel.
Rules for travel to Red List countries will remain the same, requiring returning UK travelers to self-quarantine for 10 days at a government-sanctioned hotel.
Travel rules are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.