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‘Hoping for best, planning for the worst,’ the PM’s plan for ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas

Major changes to lockdown in England announced by the PM today. Photo by Kwh1050 /Wikimedia Commons

Boris Johnson has laid out the next phase of lockdown lifting in England and admitted he is “hoping for the best and planning for the worst”.

The prime minister’s goal is a “significant return to normality” by Christmas although Johnson stressed the government’s plan “remains conditional” on successfully controlling the coronavirus to prevent a second wave later this year.

“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas,” Johnson told today’s press conference at Downing Street.

Changes apply to England only

The changes he announced – including an immediate return to public transport for all journeys – applies only to England as the devolved administrations in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh have autonomy to decide their own timetable for loosening lockdown restrictions.

Businesses in England are being encouraged to bring staff back to premises from August 1, with Johnson stating: “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.”

The PM conceded 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 essence of Johnson’s message came in his call for the public to start “looking ahead with optimism” and he laid out the plans to reopen English theatres, sports stadiums and casinos. Pilot schemes to hold socially distanced sporting events over the summer could result in wider reopening of stadiums in the autumn.

Main dates for the ‘return of normality’

From today (July 17)

Public transport can be used for all journeys without dissuasion.

From tomorrow (July 18)

Councils have new powers to cancel events, shut outdoor spaces, and close premises such as cafes and pubs.

July 20-24

Draft regulations setting out how the government can more effectively intervene at local levels will be published, expected to include powers to close restaurants and cancel events.

August 1

  • Employers have more “discretion” regarding safe workplaces for employees.
  • Reopening of indoor leisure facilities including skating rinks, casinos and bowling alleys.
  • Facials, eyebrow threading and other “close contact” services permitted at beauticians.
  • Theatre and indoor concerts can resume – subject to successful pilot tests.
  • Wedding receptions with meals for up to 30 guests can be celebrated.

September

Nurseries, schools and colleges reopen full time for all children.

October 1

  • Sports stadiums reopen for fans – subject to success of pilot events.
  • Conference centres and business events venues reopen – dependent on pilot events.

November

The end of social distancing – subject to substantial fall in prevalence of the virus although face coverings, perspex screens inside premises and other measures to mitigate the spread of the virus will be retained.

 

 

Joe Cahal: Joe Cahal is a freelance writer who has worked at the BBC and as a journalist and editor for British newspapers. Email: cahalj@westminster-daily.com
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