He’s only been in office a couple of days, but new Health Secretary Sajid Javid has already had a dramatic return. This afternoon he delivered his first announcement following the resignation of Matt Hancock over the latter’s affair with an aide. Javid outlined the easing of lockdown restrictions over the next weeks. The big ‘news’ is that there will be no early Get Out of Jail Free card, and that July 19 still remains the target date for the ending of Covid rules in England.
When Boris Johnson originally announced the delay in easing restrictions earlier this month, he described July 19 as a ‘terminus’ date, but also said there would be a review before then to assess the spread of the virus to see if an earlier easing date of July 5.
That has now been ruled out, although July 19 continues to be the intended end of restrictions, and no further extension of lockdown rules has been announced (or hinted at). Javid has already said that he wants things to get back to normal ‘as quickly as possible’ and that his priority in his new role is ending the pandemic. He also said that Covid numbers are ‘moving in the right direction’.
But what effect will this have on our summer? Things will stay much the same as they have been since May 17, when the third stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown came into effect. Weddings and funerals can still go ahead without any capacity limits as long as social distancing remains in place.
Otherwise, the following restrictions will still hold:
• No more than six people or two households can meet indoors.
• Up to 30 people can gather outdoors.
• Hospitality, entertainment, sports, cultural and accommodation venues must operate at reduced capacity so they conform to social-distancing rules.
• Customers in restaurants, bars and pubs must be seated to order their food and drink.
• Some outdoor events and performances can take place with a limited audience.
• Nightclubs remain closed.
• Indoor group exercise is allowed (with limits).
• People should work from home where possible and workplaces should adhere to social-distancing rules.
• Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and in shops.
• Hugging is allowed.
That means late-night dancing and drinking are off the cards for now, but we can still lounge around in the sunshine with 29 of our closest friends.
This lockdown extension is a huge blow to the hospitality and entertainment businesses who were hoping to fill their venues to the max from next week with people gagging to go out again. When will their wish be granted and a full reopening be possible? The prime minister said that the current restrictions will be lifted no earlier than July 19, but they will be reviewed regularly.
What does a delay to reopening mean for theatres and is Andrew Lloyd Webber going to jail? Here’s everything you need to know.
And when will clubs and music venues reopen? Here’s everything we know about that too.