Boris Johnson relaxes ‘toughest restrictions in peacetime history’ saying our long, national hibernation begins to end

Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving a statement in the House of Commons on the reduction of further

Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving a statement in the House of Commons on the reduction of further lockdown measures. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson eases the lockdown, reduces social distancing and gives business the go-ahead.

MPs cheered the Prime Minister after he announced pubs and restaurants would re-open but there was silence when he said the lockdown would ease for theatres and libraries.

After what he described as the “toughest restrictions in peacetime history” Boris Johnson has turned the key and opened the doors of churches, hotels, restaurants, museums and our homes to each other. We can even have small weddings.

The PM said: “Almost as eagerly awaited as a pint will be a haircut, particularly by me. We will re-open hairdressers, with appropriate precautions, including the use of visors.”

This year, July 4 may be celebrated as enthusiastically in England as in America after Mr Johnson’s speech on Tuesday. But that’s just England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will step out of the lockdown in their own time and at their own pace.

So what is to change in nine days time?

From that date: two households of any size can meet anywhere indoors or out. They won’t have to be the same two households. THe premier, whose partner had a baby during lockdown, said: “One set of grandparents could visit one weekend and the others the next.”

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Meetings of multiple households are not recommended. So no parties. Outside, the guidance remains that people from different households can meet in groups of up to six.

Two metres have gone down to one. “Two metres prevents all but a a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating.”

But having said that, people should still keep two metres apart if possible. If not: “We will advise people to keep a social distance of one metre plus.”

Government guidance is being published on how businesses can reduce the risk. Offices should avoid face-to-face seating, have fewer people in rooms, improve ventilation, use protective screens and face coverings, close non-essential spaces, provide hand-santiser and change shifts so people are in set teams.

Eateries will be limited to table-service. Businesses will be asked to help Test and Trace by collecting customers’ details.

Hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites can operate as can most leisure facilities and tourist attractions. These include outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs and community centres.

But “close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas, bowling alleys and water parks will stay shut.

Mr Johnson said: “We will also work with the arts industry on specific guidance to enable choirs, orchestras and theatres to resume live performances as soon as possible.”

Recreation and sport will be allowed, but indoor facilities, including changing rooms and courts, will keep closed. People should only play close contact sport with their household.

Places of worship are to open and wedding bells will ring again - but only with a maximum of 30 people.

Courts, probation services, police stations and other public services will start to resume face-to-face proceedings.

The Prime Minister concluded: “We are now able to make life easier for people to see more of their friends and families and to help businesses get back on their feet and get people back into work. But the virus has not gone away. We will continue to monitor the data with the Joint Biosecurity Centre and our ever more effective Test and Trace system.”

He warned that there would be flare-ups as seen in other countries.

“We will not hesitate to apply the brakes and re-introduce restrictions even at national level - if required.

“I urge everyone to stay alert, control the virus and save lives. Let’s keep washing our hands, staying two metres apart wherever feasible, and mitigating the risks at one metre where not, avoiding public transport when possible, and wearing a mask when not.”

We should get tested immediately if we have symptoms - and self isolate if advised to.

He added: “Today, we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our shops, streets and homes. A new but cautious, optimism is palpable.

“But it would be all too easy for that frost to return. That is why we will continue to trust in the common sense and the community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance, to carry us through and see us to victory over this virus.”

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