LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on Tuesday set to announce July 4 as the date for a significant lifting of lockdown restrictions in the country, with cinemas, museums, bars, pubs and restaurants being allowed to open their doors to the public once again.
The venues, which have been closed for at least three months since the UK went into its official coronavirus-induced lockdown on March 23, will be required to have safety measures set out under government guidance in place to be able to operate.
The Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to officially rubber-stamp the decision to allow public venues, including theatres and businesses such as hairdressers, to reopen from July 4, effectively marking an end to the lockdown in what some British MPs have dubbed “Super Saturday”.
Johnson is then due to set out some details in the House of Commons on how pubs and other social venues can safely reopen, following a review of the 2-metre mandatory social distancing rule by the UK’s COVID-19 strategy group on Monday.
The UK prime minister is expected to tell Parliament that the 2-metre social distancing rule will also be halved to 1 metre (3ft 3in) from July 4, with some mitigating measures.
The government had come under pressure from the hospitality sector, and some MPs from within the ruling Conservative Party, to relax the 2m rule, with many saying it would be impossible to trade under the current measures.
The Opposition Labour Party has said its support would depend on employees having adequate protective equipment, such as face shields, and there being an effective testing and tracing system in place.
The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will set out their own lockdown easing plans, though the government is pushing for a UK-wide approach.
On Monday, the UK saw its lowest daily death toll from the deadly virus at 15 deaths to hit a total figure of 42, 647, prompting UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock to declare that the virus was “in retreat” in the country.
The minister also said that from July 6, the people in the vulnerable health category who have been shielding behind closed doors will be able to spend time outdoors in a group of up to six people, including those outside of their household, while maintaining social distancing.
“Now, with infection rates continuing to fall in our communities, our medical experts have advised that we can now ease some of these measures, while keeping people safe,” said Hancock.
From August 1, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain available from National Health Service (NHS) volunteers and local councils.