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UK Government Eases More Lockdown Restrictions, Says Social Distancing Could End By Christmas

By Alex Landon July 17, 2020

More easing measures have come out of today’s press conference.

With the demise of the UK government’s daily press briefings, information about further lockdown easing is tending to sneak up on us these days. So it is this morning, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a further loosening of restrictions this morning, including new guidance on using public transport and working in offices, and an update on the future of social distancing.

Starting immediately, people in England will be able to use public transport to make journeys, as the government drops its previous stance on only making “essential” journeys. (You will, however, need to wear a mask, as they’re mandatory on all public transport in England.) Meanwhile, from August 1, employers will be given “more discretion” to bring their employees back into offices and workplaces – where it is safe to do so – meaning that many more of us might be returning to the office next month. The government’s previous direction on this was to encourage working from home wherever possible, and this remains an option for employees in the coming months.

But perhaps the headline announcement from this morning’s news conference is Johnson’s statement that he hoped the nation would make a return to “significant” normality by mid-November, and expressed hope that the remaining restrictions – including one-metre social distancing and limits on the number of gatherings – could be eased by Christmastime. Johnson stressed that the plans remain “conditional” on the UK continuing to make progress against the virus, and that this was a case of “hoping for the best and planning for the worst”.

From today’s announcement, we learned that new cases in the UK are currently below 1000 a day, and that localised lockdowns – as have been instigated in Leicester and Blackburn – would be the future “tools” employed to fight the virus, with local councils given sweeping new powers to close outdoor spaces and other premises at short notice, and impose stay at home orders. By the end of October, the government hopes to have a testing capacity of 500,000 tests per day, and Johnson also revealed £3 billion more funding for the NHS to help cope with the possibility of a second wave.

Though this is more progress towards normality, the success of these steps depends on us taking precautions such as wearing a mask, following social distancing guidelines, and following what Johnson called “the common sense and collective action of the British people”.

Remember that from July 24, wearing masks or face coverings inside shops will become mandatory, with fines imposed for non-compliance.