Politics

Coronavirus lockdown changes – what Boris Johnson might announce today


Boris Johnson is today announcing major changes to the coronavirus lockdown in England.

The Prime Minister has confirmed cinemas, museums and galleries can open on Saturday 4 July.

And pubs, hairdressers, hotels and restaurants could follow soon afterwards – with an announcement due to be made to Parliament this lunchtime.

Key to easing the lockdown in England will be the two-metre rule – the distance people should stay apart to stop catching coronavirus.

Last night the PM held a crunch meeting with scientists on whether to cut it to a metre or a ‘metre plus’.

The results of that review will be presented to Cabinet this morning and Parliament at 12.30pm.

If the 2m rule is cut – as is widely expected – it frees up the leisure industry to reopen more quickly. And it means rules on social gatherings can be relaxed.

Pub goers can expect good news – as can pet and human groomers

Cinemas, galleries and museums can reopen on July 4

The government has now officially set the date of Saturday 4 July for cinemas, galleries and museums to reopen in England.

Guidance will be published “shortly” on how to keep them safe – including one-way systems, spaced queuing, increased ventilation, and pre-booked tickets.

A No10 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.”

Restaurants could also be given the go ahead to reopen

The two-metre rule looks set to be cut

At lunchtime PM will announce the results of a rapid review into the two-metre rule in England.

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Scientists throughout the pandemic have urged Brits to stay two metres apart.

They say the risk of catching coronavirus from someone is 10 to 30 times higher at one metre away compared to two metres away.

But now fewer people have coronavirus in society overall, the overall risk of catching it is lower. And Tory MPs and the pub trade have piled pressure on Boris Johnson to cut the distance to save the economy.

Crucially, the review was led by No10 and while it took advice from scientists, they had no powers of veto. Economists also contributed to the review.

Shielded people can meet people for the first time in months

Shielded people can meet groups of friends outside from July 6

Today comes hot on the heels of last night’s announcement that shielding will be eased for 2.2million vulnerable people in England.

From July 6 shielding people can go out and meet up to five friends – and if they live alone, form a ‘bubble’ with another household. From August 1, the advice to shield ends completely.

But Statutory Sick Pay and direct food parcels for the shielding will also end on August 1, prompting alarm.

There’s also anger at the failure to have a legal safeguard against people being forced back to work.

Pubs should learn when they can reopen

Pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars are in the vast group of “hospitality and leisure” venues can can open in stages from July 4 onwards.

Today we should learn whether they’ll be in the first wave of openings or have to wait a little longer.

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They’re also still awaiting crucial guidance from the government on how they can operate.

This could include having to register your name when you enter a pub to make contact-tracing easier, should there be an outbreak.

People could be told to wear face masks when they go to the bar to order; indoor areas could be restricted; and tables could be separated by perspex screens.

There is also likely to be a booking system to prevent overcrowding.

Hairdressers and barbers should learn when they can reopen too

There is currently no date for reopening hair and beauty salons, and it won’t happen before July 4.

Previously, government sources said hair salons may take longer still due to the close contact involved.

But Boris Johnson has been under immense pressure to give people a haircut.

The industry hopes he will announce a firm date. Scotland doesn’t have a date either, but Wales has indicated it could happen from July 13.

Again, protective measures would have to be in place such as masks or a one-in, one-out policy. The sector is awaiting detailed guidance.

Barbers are also likely to learn when they can reopen

People might be able to gather in larger groups – or form larger ‘bubbles’

Coronavirus ‘support bubbles’ could be expanded in England – allowing more people to hug and kiss each other. Or the current limit of six people meeting outdoors could be expanded. Or both.

Boris Johnson is said to be looking at new ways to relax the rules as part of the wider announcement on easing lockdown.

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The system has let two households in England join together permanently since June 13 – allowing those inside to break social distancing rules.

But currently bubbles must consist of two households only, and one of those households must have only one adult.

Each household can also be in only one ‘exclusive’ bubble, forcing people to make difficult choices about whether to see a parent or a lover.

A senior government source told the Daily Telegraph: “There will be an expansion of social bubbles, but the details are still being finalised.”

A source told the Mirror ministers were considering allowing more social contact from July 4, but did not specify if that would be in the form of bubbles or other social contact, such as gathering outdoors.

Tourism looks set to restart

The PM’s announcement today covers the “hospitality and leisure” sectors – and tourism will be a primary concern.

As Foreign Office advice remains to stay in the UK, all eyes will be on when and how hotels, caravan sites or campsites can reopen for staycations.

It’s possible some types of venue will be able to open while others stay shut.

For example, Wales intends to reopen static caravans, self-contained cottages and hotels with en-suite bathrooms from July 13.

But in Wales, campsites and hostels stay shut for longer because they have so many shared facilities.

Foreign travel and air bridges?

Next week is the deadline for the first review of the controversial quarantine policy.

Since June 8, anyone arriving in the UK – including returning Brits – must self-isolate for 14 days.

This is expected to be scrapped for certain, named countries that form a quarantine-free “air bridge” with the UK.

The first of these is expected to be announced from June 29.

For this to happen, the government would also need to scrap its Foreign Office advice against all non-essential travel overseas.

We don’t know if this announcement will come today or whether details are still being worked out.





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