Guidance to work from home if you can will be relaxed in England from 19 July, as the nation is told that it must learn to live with Covid-19.
At a press conference this afternoon Boris Johnson confirmed the government’s work from home advice will be scrapped as part of a major shedding of restrictions on the second so-called ‘freedom day’.
This means workers will be able to return to the office, though the prime minister said it would be up to employers to determine their own working patterns.
“The key thing is the government is no longer telling people that it’s necessary that they should work from home and the rest is really for employees and employers to work out for themselves,” Johnson said today.
The one metre-plus social distancing rule will be scrapped, as well as mandatory masks in shops and on public transport.
Large events will be able to go ahead again, and the policy requiring pupils to stay at home if a child in their bubble tests positive for coronavirus will also end.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is also set to make an announcement on easing quarantine rules for fully-vaccinated passengers returning from amber list countries.
“For London this is all hugely significant and is a further placing of the ‘open for business’ sign on the front door,” said Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Next up needs to come systems to enable the safe return of more international visitors and outbound business travel.”
Muniya Barua, interim director of policy at London First, said the move will “help revive our city centres and support our world-class tourism, hospitality, and culture sectors, which have been battered by Covid for nearly 18 months”.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, said: “The hard won progress toward ‘Freedom Day’ is to be welcomed, and London’s West End and its visitors, shoppers and employees are very much looking forward to a further easing of restrictions having proven they can live safely with Covid.
“What the West End cannot continue to live without are our office based customers and overseas visitors, and we urgently need a roadmap to open up the UK to international tourism and more than a lifting of working from home guidance, we need positive encouragement to return to the office.”
Asked whether the easing of restrictions on 19 July would spark an economic recovery for the UK, Johnson added: “I think it will be a strong recovery and you’re already starting to see it and that has been made possible by the certainties of the roadmap and the vaccine/”
New health secretary Sajid Javid has made it clear he would like to press ahead with a full opening up of society, and a return to normal.
But we’ve been here before – ahead of the first planned ‘freedom day’ on 21 June, the government was forced to abandon opening up plans because of a sharp rise in Covid cases.
As such, the opening on the 19th up will only go ahead in two weeks if the government’s ‘four tests’ for easing curbs are met.
The verdict on those tests, which look at the vaccine rollout, the effectiveness of the vaccine, hospital admissions and new virus variants, will be confirmed on 12 July, to give businesses time to adapt to what is to come.
However, the prime minister today indicated that the government is keen to move ahead with the next stage of lockdown easing as the vaccine rollout continues at pace.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said yesterday that England would soon move to a phase of “personal responsibility” when to comes to Covid-19, including on face masks.