Prime Minister Boris Johnson led this evening’s Downing Street press conference outlining plans to move to Stage 4 in England on 19 July. This followed the Health Secretary's Statement in the House of Commons earlier today.
The Prime Minister was joined by England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Valance.
He began by saying this pandemic is not over and continues to carry risks so people should not assume that everything will be normal, even when restrictions ease.
The majority of legal restrictions will be removed and people will be expected to protect themselves and others through informed choice. The Government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces, such as public transport, when mixing with people you don’t normally meet.
While the Government is no longer instructing people to work from home, a return to the workplace should be gradual and businesses should follow the published guidance. Organisations and large events will be supported and encouraged to use the NHS COVID Pass in high-risk settings to help limit the risk of infection in their venues.
Positive cases and contacts of positive cases identified by NHS Test and Trace will still be legally required to self-isolate, to help break chains of transmission. There will be an isolation exemption for contacts of positive cases for under 18s and for double vaccinated adults from 16 August. School bubbles will end from 19 July.
Quarantine rules will remain for all those travelling from a red list country, and for amber list countries unless double vaccinated.
The Prime Minister said that he will keep all the data under review into next year and if a new variant emerges that is causing problems “then we must rule nothing out”. “We will not hesitate to use the means we have at our disposal to protect the public,” he said but, “We are confident if we go slowly we can proceed with the roadmap.”
Stage Four marks a new phase in the Government’s response to the pandemic, moving away from stringent restrictions on everyone’s day-to-day lives, towards advising people on how to protect themselves and others, alongside targeted interventions to reduce risk. To do this, the Government will:
- Reinforce the country’s vaccine wall of defence through booster jabs and driving take up.
- Enable the public to make informed decisions through guidance, rather than laws.
- Retain proportionate test, trace and isolate plans in line with international comparators.
- Manage risks at the border and support a global response to reduce the risk of variants emerging globally and entering the UK.
- Retain contingency measures to respond to unexpected events, while accepting that further cases, hospitalisations and deaths will occur as the country learns to live with COVID-19.
The Government’s plan includes:
- details of how businesses and large events are encouraged to use certification in high risk settings to limit the risk of infection;
- guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable; and,
- details of a review being conducted in September, to assess preparedness for autumn and winter.
‘Working Safely’ guidance will be updated to provide examples of sensible precautions that employers can take to reduce risk in their workplaces. Employers should take account of this guidance in preparing the risk assessments they are already required to make under pre-pandemic health and safety rules.
Businesses must not require a self-isolating worker to come to work, and should make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell do not attend the setting.
In relation to self-isolation prior to the changes on 16 August, the Government is “working with clinicians, and the NHS, to explore what more can be done for colleagues in patient facing roles. This would only be used in exceptional circumstances, where the self-isolation of fully vaccinated close contacts could directly impact the safety of patients”.
The full plan can be read here.
Updated guidance can be found here.
The press release accompanying this afternoon’s press conference can be found here.
Slides accompanying the briefing can be found here.