Mask laws WILL be scrapped on Freedom Day after Boris urges us personal responsibility
UK coronavirus cases rise by a further 27,125
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The Prime Minister is set to confirm this week that Freedom Day will mark the end of lockdown measures domestically. The Sunday Express understands that he will say people must “learn to live with Covid” as they do with diseases such as flu. It comes after new Health Secretary Sajid Javid made it clear he does not want to delay beyond July 19. The Prime Minister will this week flesh out the details of the exit plan.
But last night a senior Whitehall source revealed: “The message will be that it is time for a return to common sense and personal responsibility.”
It is understood the Government’s four tests for ending lockdown are being met. Current data shows infections are going up but, crucially, hospitalisations and deaths remain low.
“Essentially, the vaccine is working,” the source said. “This means we can go ahead on July 19 as planned.”
It is also understood that the PM’s desire for a “permanent end” to lockdowns makes a winter shutdown highly unlikely, meaning Christmas this year should not be disrupted.
The source said: “Of course, you can never absolutely guarantee against lockdowns but, barring an extreme variant, the plan is not to go back to them and for people to learn to live with the virus and take sensible precautions. The vaccine has severed the link between the virus and hospitalisation and deaths, so as things stand we will not need to go back to lockdowns.”
The Government also expects to receive the results of the reviews on Covid certification – vaccine passports – and social distancing this week.
They are expected to provide more evidence that people will be able to go ahead with their normal lives.
The source said: “One important development will be that there will be no legal obligation to wear masks.
“There will be guidance for people to take precautions if they think it is necessary, but all measures will be strictly voluntary. So, for example, people will be allowed to travel on the Tube without a mask but if someone feels safer wearing one they can continue to do so.”
However, those hoping to go abroad this year for their holidays may have to think again.
Last night Downing Street cautioned against reports that double-vaccinated people will be exempt from quarantine.
A No10 source said: “The double vaccine pass is something we are considering but we are not near a decision on it.”
Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter’s medical school, said he thought it “perfectly OK” for people who had received two doses to be exempt from quarantine.
He said: “The gold standard would be to be cautious. However, as a measured action going forward I think it is OK because an immunised person is less infectious and furthermore the testing of people in quarantine is pretty inaccurate.”
News of the lockdown lifting comes after dozens of Tory backbenchers threatened to rebel if there was any attempt to further delay ending restrictions.
One of the 2019 intake said: “A number of us have been discussing this on Whatsapp groups. We have told our whips enough is enough.
“The damage this is doing to the country economically is too great.”
Another MP, who described himself as a loyalist, said: “We have reached the end of the road. It is time to return to normal and start trying to repair the economy.”
A third added: “I don’t believe the Prime Minister wants to extend again but if he did, dozens would rebel.
“He would probably need Labour votes to get it through.” Meanwhile, members of the Conservative Covid Research Group want guidance written in a way that does not allow insurance firms, schools or other institutions to force an extension of measures.
MP Miriam Cates said: “Health Secretary Sajid Javid has indicated all Covid legislation will be lifted on July 19, but social distancing guidance must also be removed.
“As long as Government recommendations around mask wearing, home working, singing and indoor capacity remain in place, it is inevitable that insurance companies will prevent businesses, churches and others operating as normal.
“Covid is no longer a significant threat. We must return to a situation where individuals make their own decisions around risk.”
A further 122,377 people received their first vaccine and 160,763 received their second on Friday, taking the grand totals to 45,135,880 and 33,402,028.
There were 18 deaths and 24,885 cases yesterday, down from 27 and 27,125 recorded on Friday. Concerns about the rate of infection have led some doctors to call for some restrictions to stay in England after July 19.
The British Medical Association said that keeping some protective measures is “crucial” to stop spiralling case numbers having a “devastating impact” on people’s health, the NHS, economy and education.
And yesterday, a professor in health psychology suggested that even if politicians are getting weary of lockdown, the public understand the importance of the restrictions.
Robert West, of University College London, who sits on the Spi-B government advisory team, said: “We’ve heard right from the beginning about pandemic fatigue.
“But when you look at people’s behaviour and attitude, they really understand the importance of the measures and the restrictions.”
The lifting of restrictions is also likely to be resisted by those calling for a “zero Covid” approach.
This sees measures kept in place until the virus has been fully eliminated.
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