The Prime Minister has set out his plans for ‘living with Covid’, with the aim of lifting most of the current restrictions on 19 July.
Boris Johnson has placed more emphasis on personal responsibility, encouraging people to make their own ‘informed decisions’ around their behaviour.
From 19 July, all legal limits on numbers meeting indoors and outdoors will be lifted and nightclubs will be allowed to reopen.
If you have had both vaccines, you will no longer have to self-isolate if you’ve come into close contact with a positive case. You will have to take a PCR test as soon as possible though.
If you test positive, regardless of if you’re double-jabbed, you will still have to self-isolate.
Limits on care home visits will be lifted, as will the numbers attending concerts, theatre performances and sports events.
Masks in schools
Although it will no longer be mandatory to wear masks, schools in Bedford are likely to be advised to ‘stick with’ mask-wearing after national restrictions end on July 19, a meeting heard.
As reported by Local Democracy Reporter, David Tooley, Ben Pearson, the council’s chief officer for education, SEND and school infrastructure, said: “The current Department for Education advice is that masks don’t need to be worn in school, but Bedford borough’s advice to every school is you’ve got to carry on wearing masks.”
Mr Pearson told the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee that it is his view that the advice will not change if case numbers remain high.
“In the last two weeks we have had 161 cases in schools which is huge and we are really concerned.
“Last Wednesday there were two cases of Covid at Wixams secondary.
“We met with Wixams secondary on Monday (5 July) and they now have 32 confirmed cases with the whole of their year nine group self-isolating.”
With the end of term being on July 22, only a few days after so-called freedom day on July 19, Mr Pearson urged: “Please stick with it for the next three weeks and get us to the summer holidays and then we will review it from there.”
Ruth Wilkes, Federation Principal of Castle Newnham School, said: “I personally welcome the suggestion that school ‘bubbles’ will be relaxed and pupils and staff will no longer have to isolate for 10 days following the identification of a positive case.
“As with vaccinations, there has to be an element of personal choice and, on the issue of vaccinating younger people and children, I’d be persuaded by the advice of immunologists, but I was very pleased to receive my own second vaccination some weeks ago from our wonderful NHS.”
Increase in cases locally
Mayor Dave Hodgson welcomed the move towards ‘normality’ but urged caution and reminded residents that COVID-19 has not gone away and that cases have increased locally in recent days.
“We will be strongly encouraging people to keep wearing their face covering indoors, in busy places and on public transport and, where possible, to keep social distancing,” he said.
“Most importantly- if you have not already, please go and get vaccinated. This is such a vital step in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
“Everyone can also get their second dose after eight weeks rather than twelve, so if it’s time for you make sure you get that crucial second dose to give you a good level of protection.”
Restaurants, bars and pubs in Bedford have had a hard 18 months and the news that many current restrictions will be lifted on 19 July is welcomed by business owners and pub-goers alike.
“There are many pubs in the country that simply have not been able to operate profitably whilst the social distancing measures have been in place,” said Peter Wells, group managing director of local brewing and pub company, Wells & Co. Group.
“Pubs are uniquely British and have been sorely missed when they were shut. Sometimes taken for granted in the past, many people now realise the crucial role they play in providing the heartbeat to keep their community together.”
Will many pub businesses still on their knees, the industry is asking the Governments to reduce the unfair tax burden carried by pubs and support them with lower VAT and a reform of Business Rates.
“Allowing pubs the freedom to operate unfettered by the necessary restrictions is just one step towards rebuilding the lives of Publicans and their communities across the nation,” said Peter.
New businesses and outdoor events in Bedford town centre
As restrictions are relaxed, it’s hoped that the economy will be boosted by residents returning to bricks and mortar shops, having relied heavily on online shopping over the last 18 months.
Christina Rowe, of Bedford BID, said: “During the last year or so, Bedford businesses have been inventive with many adapting to new businesses models and others investing heavily to be COVID compliant.
“The town’s strength and resilience is benefited by the number of independent businesses (almost double the national average) and with over forty new businesses, relocations and outdoor events starting to emerge, never has there been a time so important to buy local and support your local town centre.
“This latest announcement represents another milestone when along with your old favourites, new businesses will be pleased to welcome customers responsibly, safely and respectfully.”
How things may look on 19 July
- The interval between vaccine doses for under-40s will be reduced from twelve weeks to eight
- Everyone over 18 should have had both vaccine doses by mid-September
- There will be an autumn programme for booster jabs for the most vulnerable
- The government will move away from legal restrictions to allow people to make “informed decisions” about how to manage the virus
- From step four, all legal limits on numbers meeting indoors and outdoors will be lifted
- All businesses, including nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen
- The limits on named visitors to care homes will be lifted, as will the limits on numbers attending concerts, theatres and sports events
- If you have had both jabs, you will no longer be required to self-isolate for 10 days if you have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive
- School ‘bubbles’ will end and universities can return to ‘in-person’ teaching from September
- The 1m-plus social distancing rule will end