Boris Johnson has outlined his plans to further ease the UK out of coronavirus lockdown.
Detailing the next stage of his ‘road map’ out of lockdown the prime minister said public transport use could resume immediately for everyone in England, and that guidance for employers on staff working from home would change on 1 August.
Johnson said he was "hoping for the best and planning for the worst" with the relaxing of lockdown measures.
In a news conference broadcast live from Downing Street, the PM said he hoped the country would return to "significant" normality by Christmas.
However, he reiterated that all proposals "remain conditional" on people observing guidelines and common sense in the "long fight" against Covid-19.
Here are the major changes announced today:
Anyone can use public transport if they’re wearing a facemask, with the ruling being effective immediately. Under 11s and some groups of adults are exempt from the face-covering rules.
Local authorities in England will have new powers from Saturday, including closing specific premises, shutting outdoor spaces and cancelling events. Announcing the measures, Johnson acknowledged that it would be “hard going” for people affected.
Johnson also confirmed that central government would step in if these measures proved insufficient. In addition to the local “stay at home” orders, government ministers – “where justified by the evidence” – would be able to:
prevent people entering or leaving defined areas
close whole sectors or types of premises in an area
reduce the maximum size of gatherings
restrict transport systems
Working from home
Johnson eased the work-from-home guidance and said it will be up to employers to discuss with workers whether it is safe to return from August 1.
Johnson said: "Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.
He added that this could mean "continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees".
The PM’s easing of the work-from-home guidance potentially pits him against his chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who earlier said there is “absolutely no reason” to change the advice.
But the PM told his press conference: “It is not for government to decide how employers should run their companies and whether they want their workforces in the office or not – that is for companies.”
From 1 August, most remaining leisure settings, such as bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos can reopen. The restrictions on which treatments can be offered at beauty salons will be removed, while wedding receptions including up to 30 people will be allowed for the first time.
Soft play areas and nightclubs will remain closed until further notice.
Outdoor sporting events
From October, audiences will be able to return to stadia for sports and performances, and conferences and other events can recommence, but "these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots".
Possible end to social distancing
Johnson concluded that a significant return to normality may be able to resume in time for Christmas. He said it “may conceivably be possible” to depart from social distancing measures “by November at the earliest”.
He added: “Some will say this plan is too optimistic, that the risks are too great and we will not overcome the virus in time.” But he also insisted that the Government was ready to “put on the brakes” in the event of a widespread flare-up in Covid-19 cases.
Earlier this week the government announced that the use of face masks in shops will become compulsory in England from 24 July. It is already mandatory on public transport.
Pubs reopened on 4 July, and gyms and swimming pools can reopen from 25 July, despite criticism from experts that lockdown is being lifted too quickly.
During his announcement, Johnson also announced an extra £3 billion to be invested in the NHS to help prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus.
Coronavirus: what happened today
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