Social distancing SCRAPPED but masks stay after June 21 reopening

Social distancing to be SCRAPPED from next month – but masks stay as government plans for full reopening of hospitality and return of live events

  • Social distancing rules scrapped but masks expected to remain after June 21
  • Decision is to ensure restaurants, pubs, cinemas and theatres can reopen fully
  • Test events for live concerts and sports matches below capacity also underway  
  • But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab gave caution to losing all rules too quickly
  • Comes as infections fell to 1,671 and vaccine second doses hit 15 million mark

The social distancing rule will be scrapped but masks will remain under government plans for the final easing of restrictions on June 21, it has been claimed.

People will no longer have to stick to ‘one metre-plus’ while indoors as part of plans to allow all restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas to finally reopen at full capacity.

It is hoped successful test runs of live events will also see the return of crowds to sport stadiums and concerts at the same time.

But discussing Britain’s ‘last lap’ of the pandemic yesterday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned that that some measures such as masks will be in place into the summer.

While he insisted the UK is ‘turning the corner’ as Covid recedes, he stressed ‘some safeguards’ may remain to ward off a potential further wave of the virus.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We want to get to the position at the end of June when we can get life back as close to normal as possible, but there will still need to be some safeguards in place.’

The social distancing rule will be scrapped but masks will remain under government plans for the final easing of restrictions on June 21, it has been claimed

Experts are hoping to receive positive data from a series of pilot event with non-socially distanced crowds that will provide a model for large scale events this summer. Pictured: 5,000 fans watch The Blossoms perform at Sefton Park in Liverpool

People will no longer have to stick to ‘one metre-plus’ while indoors as part of plans to allow all restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas to finally reopen at full capacity

Outside dining and beer gardens have been allowed since April 12 but the return has been somewhat hampered by the coldest April in 99 years

Asked about measures after June 21, he added: ‘I think it will be around distancing – maybe there will be something around masks.’ Mr Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘We’re very close now to really turning the corner.

‘I think we still need to be careful… We don’t want to see the gains lost and the sacrifices that have been made undone.

‘By the time we get to June 21 almost all social restrictions will be lifted, so there’s only a little bit more time to go but it’s right we do that in a careful way.

‘I do think we just need to make sure that in the last lap, if you like, that we are careful and we don’t lose the gains we’ve made.’

According to The Times this could mean theatre and cinema audiences being forced to wear marks during performances and having staggered entry times.

Pubs and restaurants could be told to keep screens between tables and require face coverings while moving around in return for no limit on capacity.

The news has caused concern for the hospitality industry, with Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality calling it a ‘red flag’ for the businesses.

‘June 21 is a critical moment for us. This is the point where hospitality businesses were looking to start breaking even again and turning the corner to hopefully begin making profit.’ 

Details for the final easing of restrictions, after a further loosening on indoor hospitality on May 17, are expected to come from recommendations in a report being compiled from test events being held across the country.

Yesterday 5,000 people attended the UK’s first live music event since before the pandemic at Sefton Park in Liverpool in a non-socially distanced trial event.

In April, an army of 4,000 football fans went to Wembley for the Southampton versus Leicester City FA Cup semi-final, and a few hundred people packed into the Crucible Theatre for a snooker tournament.

Manchester City fans celebrate scoring of the opening goal in the Carabao cup final against Tottenham Hotspur. The final was used as a test event with all those in attendance taking a Covid test beforehand

A few hundred people packed into the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield for the World Snooker Championship

Attendees for the events have had to provide a negative Covid test to allow entry into the event and were asked to test themselves again afterwards. 

Experts hope that between some being people vaccinated and the reliability of testing kits the events will not cause a spread of the virus and could create a model for how to safely hold large scale gatherings this summer.

A government source told the Times: ‘The evidence we’ve got so far from the pilots is very positive and the general background on data is hugely encouraging in terms of numbers, falling deaths and hospitalisations.’

It comes as yesterday government figures showed the number of Covid cases fell to 1,671 from last Sunday’s 1,712 as the country moves closer to the next easing of lockdown rules on May 17.

Deaths meanwhile increased to 14, a rise of three compared to the 11 recorded last Sunday. 

On vaccinations, Government data shows that 49,834,997 jabs have been given out in the UK so far – 34,505,380 of which are first doses.

The rollout also hit the milestone of 15 million second doses after 372,304 Britons returned for their follow-up jabs.  

The success of the UK’s vaccination programme and falling infection numbers have prompted demands for the Government to bring forward its reopening dates. 

But the Foreign Secretary urged people to be patient as he insisted June 21 is not far away and ‘we are nearly there’.  

It comes after Office for National Statistics data suggested the total number of infections is lower than at any point since early September and infections have been falling constantly for five weeks.  

Experts said the data ‘should be celebrated’ and were the first proof that, despite the reopening of outdoor hospitality and allowing the rule of six earlier this month, there was still ‘no evidence of an increased transmission risk’.  

Evidence that Covid has been stamped out in Britain is now overwhelming as the vaccine rollout speeds ahead and official figures show 22million people – one in three – live in areas where not a single person has died with the virus this month. 

And Britons will be allowed to hug their friends and family in just over a fortnight as ministers look set to follow through with the next stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Meanwhile, a major study using rapid testing could see self-isolation requirements eased for people who have been in contact with coronavirus sufferers.

Daily lateral flow tests will be given to up to 40,000 people.

Instead of the ten days of quarantine currently required, they will be sent a week’s worth of tests while continuing their normal lives if the results are negative.

The trial across England may provide greater evidence to reduce the length of time contacts of positive cases need to isolate. This will feed into efforts to restart social lives and reopen the economy.

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