‘Freedom Day’ in sight as England & Wales confirm dates for easing Coronavirus restrictions

‘Freedom Day’ in sight as England & Wales confirm dates for easing Coronavirus restrictions

Key Contact: Claire Knowles

Author: Adam McGlynn

In Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on 12 July, the Prime Minister announced that previously proposed easing of Coronavirus prevention measures and restrictions in England would proceed as planned on 19 July 2021. This date, coming to be known as ‘freedom day’, follows a 4-week postponement to allow further roll-out of the vaccination programme amid rising daily cases and hospitalisations. It is expected that by 19 July every adult in the UK will have been offered their first vaccine dose and 64% of the adult population in the UK will have received two doses of the vaccine.

On 14 July 2021, Wales announced a more conservative approach which will see Wales move to Alert Level 0 on 7th August 2021.

Why Now?

The Government’s decision to further ease lockdown restrictions is based on the four roadmap tests:

  1. Successful roll-out of the Government’s vaccination programme
  2. Sufficient evidence that vaccines are effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths
  3. Sufficient evidence that infection rates will not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  4. Sufficient evidence that the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern

Professor Chris Witty explained that there is wide agreement that tests 1, 2, and 4 are satisfied. Concerns regarding test 3 arise when taking the current rising rate of daily cases and hospitalisations into account. However, Professor Chris Witty and Boris Johnson explained that, though cases are currently rising, and there will inevitably be an ‘exit wave’ as restrictions ease, modelling data suggests that cases and hospitalisation rates should remain manageable. Proceeding with reduced restrictions during the summer will also take advantage of the school holidays and the warmer weather, though it was acknowledged that the vaccination programme is still incomplete and there is no ‘perfect date’.

What is Changing?

The changes taking effect from 19 July will signify the UK’s move to step 4 on the Government’s roadmap to recovery. All legal restrictions will be lifted, however, guidance will still be published and individuals and businesses will be expected to exercise caution and common sense. In particular, the following key changes will take place:

  • Legal obligations to exercise social distancing will be lifted
  • Legal obligations to wear face masks will be lifted, though the Government still recommend wearing face masks when in close proximity with those you do not usually spend time with, and on public transport
  • Government guidance to work from home where possible will be lifted, though businesses may consider a staggered return if they wish
  • Business restrictions will be lifted, however, the Government recommends that nightclubs and crowded venues use the Covid Passport system.

Test and Trace

Test and Trace will continue to operate as usual for the time being. However, from 16 August, it is proposed that under 18-year-olds, and those who have received two doses of the vaccine, will not be required to self-isolate if instructed to do so via test and trace. It is worth noting that, even after receiving two doses of the vaccine, this proposed change is not currently proposed to affect other reasons to self-isolate, such as living with someone who has tested positive.

Restrictions in Wales

Wales, currently at Alert Level 2, have taken a slightly more cautious approach to easing Coronavirus restrictions, planning to move to Alert Level 1 on 17 July and then Alert Level 0 on 7 August, provided that cases remain low. The key differences between the three Alert Levels can be seen below:

Alert Level 2 (until 17 July)
  • Up to 6 people can meet at indoor venues
  • Up to 30 people can meet outdoors
  • Home visitors are limited to household and extended household members
  • Social distancing is mandatory
  • People should work from home wherever possible
  • Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces and on public transport
Alert Level 1 (From 17 July until 7 August)
  • Indoor events can host 1,000 seated or 200 standing attendees
  • No limit on people who can meet outdoors
  • Home and holiday accommodation visitors are limited to 6 people
  • Social distancing outdoors is no longer required
  • Further businesses can reopen including ice rinks
  • People should work from home wherever possible
  • Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces and on public transport
Alert Level 0 (From 7 August)
  • Legal limits on people meeting both indoors and outdoors are lifted
  • Social distancing indoors is no longer required
  • All businesses can reopen including nightclubs
  • People should work from home wherever possible
  • Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces and on public transport, but will not be required in hospitality settings

If you would like further advice on Coronavirus restrictions, vaccines, or managing your employees through the return to the workplace, please contact our Employment Team.

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