Local lockdown powers
Boris Johnson announced that, from 18 July, local authorities will have new powers to tackle local outbreaks.
This includes closing specific premises, shutting outdoor spaces and cancelling events. The PM said he was able to make the change as “we know more about the virus we understand the epidemiology better”.
Government ministers would also be given new guidance on how they can control outbreaks, with full details to be published next week. These powers include:
- closing whole sectors nationwide or in a specific area;
- imposing restrictions on movement and implement ‘stay at home’ orders;
- limiting how many people can gather in certain areas;
- restricting transport networks;
- and mandating the use of face coverings in a wider range of public places
These measures are intended to allow for targeted interventions while seeking to avoid a return to a national lockdown.
Preparing for winter
“It is possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months. And it's certain that the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures,” Boris Johnson said.
To prepare for the winter, the PM announced £3bn of additional funding for the NHS in England, with additional cash to be allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland separately.
He also said that the UK now had 30,000 ventilators compared to just 9,000 at the start of the pandemic and that the temporary Nightingale hospitals would be kept open until March to expand capacity.
There also plans for “the biggest ever flu vaccination programme in the history of the UK” to help reduce pressure on the health service.
From 1 August, most remaining leisure settings, such as bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos, and close-contact services such as beauticians, will be allowed to resume in England, Johnson said.
Theatres can begin allowing live shows with "socially distanced audiences" from the same date, as some performances will also be allowed to resume on a trial basis.
And, wedding receptions consisting of up to 30 people will be allowed, provided they are subject to social distancing and Covid-secure guidelines.
High-risk venues such as soft play areas and nightclubs will remain closed for the time being.
But conferences will be allowed to resume from October, and while there's no word yet on whether this will allow political party conferences that have been axed to resume, there are plans to reopen stadia for sports and performances from the same month.
But the PM stressed that these reopenings were dependent on a continued fall in the prevalence of the virus.
The government is also eyeing a wider review of social distancing restrictions from November – but that pledge is heavily caveated.
The document says: “If prevalence falls very significantly, we will review the necessity for the outstanding measures and allow a more significant return to normality.
“This would start with removing the need to distance people, while retaining limited mitigations like face coverings and plastic screens in shops.
“Our ambition is that this may be possible by November at the earliest, however this would be contingent on a number of factors, including consideration of the specific challenges as we move into winter, as described above.”
Back to work
The government said it would give employers “more discretion” regarding working from home arrangements, and Johnson said they will be asked to “make decisions about how their staff can work safely” from 1 August.
This could include staying at home, but he added that workplaces that can be made safe should be made available to employees.
And, the official advice is now that people may use public transport, though they are encouraged to consider alternative means of transport where possible.
Eleanor Langford is a reporter for CSW's sister publication PoliticsHome, where this article first appeared.