Boris Johnson is expected to confirm lockdown changes can go ahead as planned on July 19 at a 5pm Downing Street press conference.
The Prime Minister is meeting top allies today to make the final decision on whether England can scrap almost all Covid laws in one week’s time.
While Downing Street claim the decision will only be final later today, Mr Johnson has made clear he wants to go ahead with step four of his roadmap.
But in a blizzard of mixed messages, he will tonight emphasise caution and say people are “expected” to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces – at the same time as axing all mask laws.
And after claiming last week that the vaccine had “severed” the link between Covid cases and deaths, he will instead only say it has been “severed”.
Mr Johnson said last night: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our roadmap out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet.
“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”
The Prime Minister and his scientific advisors will present the latest data which shows cases surging.
UK cases are up 27% in a week with 31,772 recorded yesterday, with the rate of growth apparently slowing after previously rising more than 50% week-on-week.
Deaths are far lower than earlier in the pandemic but are up 66% in a week, with 26 recorded yesterday and 203 in a week. Hospitalisations are up 57% in a week with 563 yesterday alone.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is also expected to give a statement on the changes in the House of Commons this afternoon.
At a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister is set to defy warnings and order the latest stage of lockdown relaxations so Freedom Day can go ahead next Monday.
The Government is to scrap the rule that masks must be worn in busy indoor venues and on public transport – but ask people to keep wearing them anyway.
The rule of six indoors will be axed, punters will be allowed to queue at bars and nightclubs can reopen.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The very clear guidelines will be that you’re expected to wear a mask.
“But it’s not government by diktat.”
An Opinium/Observer poll found 73% of people believe wearing masks on public transport should continue.
Public Health England’s Covid-19 incident director, Prof Susan Hopkins, said: “I would strongly advise that we continue to wear masks indoors. I would also advise them on public transport… you don’t have any idea who you’re in contact with.”
Research by Public Health England and Cambridge University shows vaccines have prevented 8.5 million cases and 30,000 deaths in England, No 10 said.