It’s the date that has been on everybody’s lips for weeks now, and the UK government has finally clarified what changes to the current July 4 lockdown will be made. Speaking in the House of Commons just now, Premier Boris Johnson confirmed that pubs, restaurants, hotels, museums, hairdressers and more would be permitted to open again in England on July 4. That will also be the day on which the long-running two-meter social distance rule will be reduced to one metre, and it will again be possible to stay overnight in other households.
Today’s briefing has given the green light to almost all of the expected easing measures, which are as follows:
Two households of any size can meet indoors.
From July 4, you’ll be able to meet indoors and stay overnight in a second home. The Prime Minister said the meetings need not always be with the same household (so there is no need to choose between lovers and parents), but these meetings should be limited to one household meeting another at any given time. As Johnson remarked, “the fewer social contacts, the safer you’ll be.”
The guidance applies to households regardless of size and marks the first time since lockdown that people from one household will be able to stay overnight in another. However, you’ll still be expected to follow social distancing measures even if you are staying overnight, in a bid to prevent transmission of the virus.
Pubs are back…
Thankfully, pubs are allowed to reopen from July 4, but as with everything else in the UK ‘s gradual reopening, they will look a little different for some time. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking on Sky News yesterday, floated the possibility of perspex screens, masks, and creative seating arrangements as a means of preventing the spread of the virus, and suggested that having visitors sign a guest book upon arrival would help track and trace anyone who might come into contact with an infection. It’s expected that those pubs which can offer online or app-based ordering of drinks will be asked to do so. As with restaurants, table service will be needed for indoor drinking.
…and restaurants are allowed to reopen
The big news for a hospitality industry that had been brought to its knees by coronavirus is that restaurants can reopen for indoor dining on July 4. Coupled with adherence to the one-metre rule are some conditions: indoor dining will be limited to table service, there must be minimal staff and customer contact, and businesses would be asked to collect contact details to help with tracking and tracing virus cases if needed.
Sadly, the news has come too late for some in London; the likes of Tramshed, Sardine, and The Ledbury have all announced that they are closing their doors permanently as a result of lost revenue during the lockdown.
Museums, galleries, and cinemas are also back on July 4
Many of England’s favourite cultural sites could return on July 4, as the new easing measures also permit the reopening of museums, galleries, and cinemas. They’ll need to have safety measures in place, such as one-way systems and pre-booked tickets, but their return will mark another big step forward towards normality. Gyms, playgrounds, theme parks, arcades, libraries, social clubs, and community centres are also being allowed to return under similar rules. However, nightclubs, indoor gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and water parks are amongst those that will not be allowed to reopen for now.
It’s worth noting that not all places will return, however; the National Portrait Gallery will remain closed for a three-year renovation, and some of the smaller London museums have long warned about the prospect of facing permanent closure. It remains to be seen which London sites will announce their reopening plans in the coming days.
Hairdressers and barbershops can reopen
Anyone in dire need of a haircut is in luck with the latest announcement, as hairdressers will be amongst the latest wave of reopenings. Online appointments will be favoured over walk-ins, hairdressers will wear visors during cuts, and specific hair treatments could be curtailed to allow establishments to offer a more streamlined service. The PM also signalled that nail bars could return soon.
Hotels, B&B’s, and campsites are also back.
Hotels and B&Bs are amongst the new wave of reopenings allowed from July 4, another beneficiary of the relaxation of the two-metre rule and the latest guidance on overnight stays. Johnson also stated that campsites will be permitted to reopen, as long as shared facilities are kept clean.
Places of worship can return, with weddings.
Churches, mosques, and synagogues will be allowed to welcome worshippers from July 4. Still, there will be some limitations on what can and can’t be done – for instance, singing songs of worship is likely to be out for a while, as it’s seen as a danger in spreading airborne droplets. Johnson did note that weddings of up to 30 people are now allowed.
The two-metre distancing rule is gone.
It’s long been the mantra of the UK lockdown, but from July 4, the two-metre rule is no more. Instead, we’ll be asked to keep “one metre plus” away from those we don’t live with, although some mitigations will be attached. To be within one metre of someone else, you’ll need to take further precautions such as avoiding face-to-face seating, improving ventilation, changing shift patterns in work, along with wearing a mask, or meeting up outside.
A return to restrictive measures is still possible.
Johnson warned that these changes would be recalled if a spike in cases was forthcoming, saying “At every stage, caution will remain our watchword. Each step will be conditional and reversible.” He asked citizens to use their common sense but signalled a broader shift from legislation to the guidance in a bid to push towards the new normal. However, the Prime Minister warned that the government wouldn’t hesitate to “apply the break” and reintroduce restrictions if a flare-up in cases was forthcoming, whether that be at a local or national level. He concluded by saying that “Our long national hibernation is coming to an end” – just so long as we remain cautious and sensible about the new rules.