Boris Johnson heralded the end of social distancing rules, mask laws and the work from home order tonight as he pushed the button on a ‘big bang’ Freedom Day, warning that it is now or never to unlock.
In a bold shift despite daily Covid cases rising a fifth in a week to 27,000, the PM told a Downing Street briefing that they could hit 50,000. But he insisted even though the pandemic ‘certainly won’t be over’ by July 19 and people should not be ‘demob happy’ the government will no longer issue ‘top down’ orders.
Mr Johnson insisted he had to ‘balance the risks… the risks of the disease, and the risks of continuing with restrictions’. ‘If we don’t go ahead now when we we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link between infection and death.
‘If we don’t go ahead now when the summer firebreak is coming up, the school holidays, all the advantages that that should give us in fighting the virus, then the question is, ”when would we go ahead?”. ‘Particularly given the likelihood the virus will have an extra advantage in the colder months, in the autumn, and in the winter.
‘So we run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage in the colder months, or again putting everything off to next year so I do think it’s going to be a very balanced decision next week.’ The one-metre plus decree and advice to work from home where possible will be dropped, with mask wearing no longer mandatory – while pubs and other venues will not have to collect customer details and will again be able to serve drinks at the bar.