WFH guidance and social distancing rules could continue PAST June 21

Work from home guidance and social distancing rules could continue PAST ‘freedom day’ June 21 amid warnings easing might depend on use of ‘Covid passports’

Ministers have raised the prospect of some social distancing and working from home rules remaining in place after lockdown officially ends in June. 

A review released today says that the ‘extent of any relaxation’ of measures in place since January will be linked to the success of the vaccine rollout and a final decision on Covid passports.

Hopes has been high that the June 21 date given as the official end of lockdown would see a lifting of all remaining social distancing measures across England.

The document released today as Boris Johnson gave a Downing Street press conference, at which he said ‘we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that roadmap’.

But the document painted a slightly more cautious picture. 

‘The review is looking at key baseline measures, including how and when to safely lift or amend the 1m+ rule and related COVID-secure measures, as well as guidance on working from home,’ it noted.

‘It is also looking at what guidance can be provided to enable individuals to take informed personal choices. 

The document released today as Boris Johnson gave a Downing Street press conference, at which he said ‘we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that roadmap’

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance (right) suggested that long-term social distancing could look a lot different to how it does now. ‘It probably means things like hand hygiene, things like the fact that people will take time off if they get ill and stay at home rather than going into work – so taking time to take yourself out,’ he told tonight’s press conference.

‘The conclusion will depend on the latest data and evidence on the state of the pandemic and the impact of vaccine effectiveness, as the country progresses through the roadmap.

‘As set out above, the extent of any relaxation in social distancing measures is linked to the questions being explored by the COVID-Status Certification Review including whether COVID-status certification can enable changes to social distancing.’

However chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance suggested that long-term social distancing could look a lot different to how it does now.

‘It probably means things like hand hygiene, things like the fact that people will take time off if they get ill and stay at home rather than going into work – so taking time to take yourself out,’ he told tonight’s press conference.

‘Testing to know if you have got it or not. Those sort of things are likely to be important baseline measures going forward.’ 

It came as the Government’s top scientific advisers warned today that social distancing will need to remain in place for another year even if Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown goes to plan.

Senior SAGE sources said that while the vaccines prevent the vast majority of people from falling ill and dying from coronavirus, they ‘are not good enough’ to see all curbs lifted ‘without a big epidemic’.  

All legal limits on social contact were to be abolished by June 21 as part of the final stage of the Prime Minister’s four-step route out of the crisis. It was hoped that festivals, sports events and nightclubs would reopen and that families and friends could reunite in large numbers after that date for the first time since winter 2020.

However, No10’s experts claimed today that ‘baseline measures’, including some form of social distancing and masks, would need to remain in place until this time next year. They said they are ‘reasonably confident’ that Covid will be manageable by then.  

The AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines reduce Covid deaths by about 90 per cent, but there are fears high infection rates could see the virus spill into the small number of vulnerable people who haven’t been jabbed or for whom the vaccines don’t work.   

Boris Johnson tonight confirmed that shops, pubs and restaurants can reopen from next Monday – amid fears that his wider roadmap for easing lockdown is hanging in the balance.

The PM tried to strike a bullish tone saying the country’s hard work is ‘paying off’ as he held an Easter Monday press briefing in Downing Street, confirming that the next relaxation will proceed on April 12 as planned.

Non-essential retail, gyms and hairdressers can get up and running, while bars, restaurants and cafes will be able to serve customers customers.

‘On Monday 12, I will be going to the pub myself and cautiously but irreversibly raising a pint of beer to my lips,’ Mr Johnson said.

As he struggled to quell rising anxiety about when normal life might resume, he said: ‘We set out our roadmap and we are sticking with it. We see nothing the present data that suggests we will have to deviate from that roadmap.’

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