Households to be able to meet indoors as lockdown lifting allows restaurants, pubs, and hairdressers to reopen

Boris Johnson has announced the effective unlocking of England as he said a swathe of businesses could reopen and households could meet again indoors.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 1:09 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 1:10 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA

Addressing the Commons the Prime Minister said the commonsense and perseverance of Britons has “more than justified our faith” in them, as he delivered a Covid-19 statement to the Commons.

He said: “Since I set out our plan on May 11, we have been clear that our cautious relaxation of the guidance is entirely conditional on our continued defeat of the virus.

“In the first half of May, nearly 69,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 across the UK. By the first half of June that total had fallen by nearly 70 per cent to just under 22,000.”

He said: “The number of new infections is now declining by between two per cent and four per cent every day.

“Four weeks ago an average of one in 400 people in the community in England had Covid-19, in the first half of June this figure was one in 1,700.

“We created a human shield around the NHS and in turn our doctors and nurses have protected us, and together we have saved our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

He said that meant from July 4, the two-metre rule will be reduced to “one metre-plus”, meaning extra precautions such as the wearing of masks could allow people to be closer together.

He told the Commons: “Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus we can change the two-metre social distancing rule from July 4.”

He added: “Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should.

“But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one metre-plus, meaning they should remain one metre apart while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission.”

Mr Johnson said that from July 4, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting.

He said: “From now on, we will ask people to follow guidance on social contact instead of legislation.

“In that spirit, we advise that from July 4, two households of any size should be able to meet in any setting inside or out.

“That does not mean they must always be the same two households, it will be possible for instance to meet one set of grandparents one weekend, the others the following weekend.

“But we are not recommending meetings of multiple households indoors because of the risk of creating greater chains of transmission.”

And he announced restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen from July 4, and said: "All hospitality indoors will be limited to table service and our guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact.

“We will ask businesses to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers as happens in other countries and we will work with the sector to make this manageable.”

He said hairdressers can also reopen but the fewer social contacts people have, the safer they will be.

He told the Commons: “I’m acutely conscious that people will ask legitimate questions about why certain activities are allowed and others are not.

“And I must ask the House to understand that the virus has no interest in these debates, its only interest, its only ambition is to exploit any opportunities to recapture ground that we might carelessly vacate and to reinfect our communities.

“And so there is only one certainty – the fewer social contacts you have, the safer you will be.”

Mr Johnson said guidance for business will be published later on Tuesday.

He added: “I know this rule effectively makes life impossible for large parts of our economy even without other restrictions, for example it prevents all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating.”

He added: “We’re today publishing guidance on how business can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers.

“And these include, for instance, avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings, closing non-essential social spaces, providing hand santiser, changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams.”

He said: “Today we can say that our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end and life is returning to our streets and to our shops, the bustle is starting to come back and a new but cautious optimism is palpable.

“But I must say to the House it will be all too easy for that frost to return, and 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 to see us to victory over this virus.”