Boris Johnson to announce Covid restrictions to be scrapped on ‘Freedom Day’

Susanna Reid grills Kwasi Kwarteng on ‘Freedom Day’ delay

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The Prime Minister is expected to announce that social distancing, compulsory face masks and quarantine for vaccinated travellers will be scrapped on “Freedom Day”. The school bubble system is to be ditched and replaced by daily testing and Mr Johnson will announce changes to working from home guidance. He will also deliver an update on the next steps for care home visits. The No10 press conference is aimed at giving businesses and the public more time to prepare.

Mr Johnson is also likely to scrap the QR code sign-in requirement for pubs and restaurants to curb the number of people being forced to isolate through the NHS app.

Those who have received both doses of a Covid jab will also not be required to self-isolate when they come into contact with someone who tests positive for the virus.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, Mr Johnson said: “Thanks to the successful rollout of our vaccination programme, we are progressing cautiously through our roadmap.

“Today we will set out how we can restore people’s freedoms when we reach step four.

“But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.

“As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgment when going about our lives.”

The final lifting of Covid restrictions will be confirmed next Monday if the Government’s “four tests” for easing have been met.

The latest data and modelling suggest cases will continue to rise as restrictions ease, but the link to hospitalisations and deaths has been weakened due to the vaccination programme.

As of yesterday, there were 24,248 new cases in England. There are now 1,905 patients in hospital with Covid-19.

Official estimates show that one in 260 people now have the virus. Some 78 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK, and 63.4 per cent of adults have had two doses.

Data from Public Health England shows that Covid vaccines are effective against severe illness from the Delta variant. The analysis suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96 per cent effective, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine 92 per cent effective against hospitalisation after two doses.

The Government is preparing to offer a third “booster” dose to everyone aged over 50 over the winter months, based on interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid will announce Covid rule changes to Parliament today. The Cabinet minister yesterday said that the best way to protect the nation’s health is to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions.

“The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling,” he wrote in a Sunday newspaper article.

He added: “We will have a country that is not just freer, but healthier, too.”

Fellow Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said England will now move into a period without legal restrictions.

The Housing Secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It does look as if – thanks to the success of the vaccine programme – that we now have the scope to roll back those restrictions and return to a normality as far as possible.

“But we now have to move into a different period where we learn to live with the virus, we take precautions and we as individuals take personal responsibility.”

Asked on Sky News about whether he would stop wearing his face mask if allowed, Mr Jenrick said he would, because he did not particularly want to wear one.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said if some people continued to wear face masks in certain circumstances, such as crowded places, then “that’s not necessarily a bad thing”. “Those habits to reduce infections are a good thing to keep,” he added.

He said the link between infections, hospital admissions and deaths had not been totally broken as there were people in hospital who had been vaccinated. “But it’s severely weakened,” he said.

Professor Adam Finn, from the JCVI, said mask wearing is extremely valuable under certain circumstances.

He told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “Well on a personal level I shall certainly be continuing to wear a mask if I’ve got any symptoms or if I’m in an enclosed space with lots of other people for a prolonged period of time, indefinitely in fact.”

He said his fellow paediatricians “learned that we can avoid massive problems with children getting sick in the winter by doing these kind of measures”.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth added: “We are all desperate to move on from restrictions but with infections continuing to rise steeply thanks to the Delta variant, Boris Johnson needs to outline the measures he will introduce such as ventilation support for building and sick pay for isolation to push cases down.”

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