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Boris will push the button on July 19 ‘Freedom Day’ TODAY

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Boris Johnson will give the final go-ahead for ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19 today – but send a stark message that people need to keep being careful amid spiking cases.

The Prime Minister will use a Downing Street press conference to confirm the unlocking next Monday, with almost all legal restrictions to be axed in England.

But he will caution that the dramatic easing ‘comes with a warning’, and people must ‘expect’ to keep wearing masks in enclosed spaces such as supermarkets and trains. 

Government experts have suggested working from home and social distancing should remain the norm after the shift to trusting the public’s ‘common sense’. There are fears that hospitalisations could hit 3,000 a day soon as the Delta variant continues to run riot.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham today renewed his assault over dropping the legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport.   

But health minister Edward Argar pointed to the ‘defensive wall’ being provided by vaccines. ‘If not now, when?’ he said of lifting the legal restrictions. 

In a statement ahead of a Covid O meeting this morning to sign off the plans, and his press briefing at 5pm, the PM said that cases will inevitably continue to rise as restrictions are eased.

‘Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS,’ he said. 

Boris Johnson (pictured running this morning) will give the final go-ahead for 'Freedom Day' on July 19 later - but send a stark message that people need to keep being careful amid spiking cases

Boris Johnson (pictured running this morning) will give the final go-ahead for ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19 later – but send a stark message that people need to keep being careful amid spiking cases

Boris Johnson will today warn that people should 'expect' to keep wearing masks in enclosed spaces such as supermarkets and trains even after Covid restrictions are lifted on July 19

Boris Johnson will today warn that people should ‘expect’ to keep wearing masks in enclosed spaces such as supermarkets and trains even after Covid restrictions are lifted on July 19

Health minister Edward Argar pointed to the 'defensive wall' being provided by vaccines. 'If not now, when?' he said of lifting the legal restrictions

Health minister Edward Argar pointed to the ‘defensive wall’ being provided by vaccines. ‘If not now, when?’ he said of lifting the legal restrictions

The latest Covid developments come as:  

  • No 10 issued figures showing Covid vaccines have saved 30,000 lives and prevented 8.5million infections in England alone.
  • Dr Susan Hopkins of PHE warned that hospitalisations could soar to 4,000 a day by the end of the summer, the same level as at the peak in January. 
  • Another 31,772 new Covid cases were recorded but there were signs the rate of growth is slowing and the 26 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours are a fraction of the toll seen at the peak of the pandemic. 

The ‘Freedom Day’ was meant to herald a return to normality but the PM will also publish new ‘guidance’ setting out precautions people should continue to take.

Mr Johnson will say England is ‘tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.’ 

He will insist that vaccinations have ‘weakened’ the link between Covid infections and hospital admissions, while warning ‘the global pandemic is not over yet.’

However, the PM has dropped claims that the end of Covid restrictions is ‘irreversible’ following warnings from top scientists that easing restrictions could end in disaster. 

Minister denies mixed messaging over masks as he says they COULD be compulsory on trains after July 19  

A minister today denied there were mixed messages from the government over masks after July 19.

Edward Argar insisted people could use their ‘common sense judgment’ in deciding whether to use face coverings.

The comments came after Health Secretary Sajid Javid suggested it would be ‘irresponsible’ not to wear masks in crowded places.

And ‘Freedom Day’ guidance being issued later is set to say they are ‘expected’ in some circumstances – although not legally required.  

Mr Argar raised fresh doubt about whether there will be a genuine removal of restrictions in a round of interviews this morning, saying train companies may well look at demanding them as a ‘condition of carriage’.

‘But at a governmental level, what we have set out, what we will be looking to do is see the legal requirements fall away but for guidance – strong guidance and cautious guidance – to be in place for people to exercise their common sense,’ he added.

Asked about former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith complaining that the stance risks creating confusion, Mr Argar replied: ‘I don’t think that the British people will struggle to look at the guidance and form their own common-sense judgment – I don’t think it will introduce confusion.

‘I think people will look at it, they will form a sensible judgment based on the guidance.’

Mr Argar said he personally would ‘continue to carry my face mask in my jacket pocket’.

‘The sort of circumstances where I would wear it, where I would encourage others to do so, are the sort of things that Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer set out a week or so again,’ he told LBC.

‘If, for example, you are in a crowded train, if you are in a setting like a hospital where the relevant authority requires you to wear it, or where, as common courtesy, if you are in an indoor environment with someone who clearly feels uncomfortable with you not wearing it, it would be common courtesy to put it on then – that’s how I would behave.’ 

In a round of interviews, Mr Argar said it is ‘possible’ that daily coronavirus case numbers could hit the 100,000 mark but stressed that vaccines are helping to protect people from serious illness and hospital admission.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: ‘You’ve seen the Secretary of State and others talk about between a range of 50,000 to 100,000 is possible.’

Mr Argar added: ‘If you look at hospital admissions, and forgive me if my figures are a little bit out, but the seven-day rolling average of hospital admissions for now, when we’re seeing this level of infection rate, is roughly between 350 and 400 a day.

‘Back in January, with an equivalent infection rate, we were seeing 1,800 to 2,000.

‘So you can see how that vaccine programme may not have broken it by 100 per cent because the vaccine isn’t 100 per cent effective, but it has really severely weakened that link and therefore the numbers we are going to see in hospital are going to be much smaller.’

Mr Argar defended the decision to ditch mandatory masks in England, saying train companies may well look at demanding them as a ‘condition of carriage’.

‘But at a governmental level, what we have set out, what we will be looking to do is see the legal requirements fall away but for guidance – strong guidance and cautious guidance – to be in place for people to exercise their common sense.’

Asked about former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith complaining that the stance risks creating confusion, Mr Argar replied: ‘I don’t think that the British people will struggle to look at the guidance and form their own common-sense judgment – I don’t think it will introduce confusion.

‘I think people will look at it, they will form a sensible judgment based on the guidance.’

Dr Hopkins yesterday called for people to continue following the advice beyond July 19.

‘If you are able to do your business effectively from home then I think over the next four to six weeks, as there’s a rise in cases, we should try our best to do that,’ she told Times Radio.

‘Then we should continue to look and see and have a cautious return to the office over the coming weeks, once we start to see a decline in the number of cases.’

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday said there would now be a clear ‘expectation’ that people should continue to wear face masks in crowded indoor settings.

He added that it is ‘important that we remain cautious’, but insisted he is ‘confident that we can proceed with this step forward’ because 87 per cent of adults have now had a first vaccine dose.   

Labour have warned that dropping laws requiring masks is a ‘recipe for confusion’ that risks potential confrontations between those with differing views on the matter.  

But Mr Zahawi said vaccinations had ‘severely weakened’ the link between Covid infections and hospitalisations. He did, however, refuse to repeat Mr Johnson’s assertion it had been ‘severed.’     

Last week, Mr Johnson said that mask wearing would become ‘a personal choice’ after July 19

Last week, Mr Johnson said that mask wearing would become ‘a personal choice’ after July 19

The Prime Minister will use a Downing Street press conference this afternoon to confirm plans to end most Covid laws next Monday, despite surging cases

The Prime Minister will use a Downing Street press conference this afternoon to confirm plans to end most Covid laws next Monday, despite surging cases

He added that Britons should ‘do the right thing’ in regards to face coverings, telling Times Radio: ‘Indoors, in crowded carriages, the very clear guidelines will be that you’re expected to wear a mask.’ 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid struck a harder line on masks in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph today, saying people would be ‘irresponsible’ not to wear one in a crowded space. 

‘If someone is not doing that, frankly, they’re just being irresponsible, they’re not playing their role as a responsible citizen,’ he said.  

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith last night accused ministers of ‘losing their nerve’ over the lifting of restrictions.

He said: ‘This is not freedom at all. Ministers are being beaten up by the scientists in the media and they are beginning to wobble. 

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday said there would now be a clear ‘expectation’ that people should continue to wear face masks in crowded indoor settings

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday said there would now be a clear ‘expectation’ that people should continue to wear face masks in crowded indoor settings

Britain has recorded 31,772 new cases of coronavirus and 26 new deaths in the latest government figures

Britain has recorded 31,772 new cases of coronavirus and 26 new deaths in the latest government figures

‘The question for the scientists is: do they believe the vaccines work? 

‘If they work – and they clearly do to reduce hospitalisations and deaths – then we should not be continuing to sacrifice the economy on the altar of some misguided zero Covid policy.’

CBI calls for self-isolation rules to be dropped earlier 

Business leaders have urged the government to drop self-isolation rules earlier than planned. 

The CBI, which represents 190,000 firms, said the requirement for the double-jabbed to quarantine after coming in contact with positive cases should go on July 19, rather than waiting until August 16.

CBI boss Tony Danaker said: ‘Learning to live and work with the virus is the right strategy, but we need to ensure this is a confident not an anxious transition, otherwise it won’t work.

‘Businesses have had a real boost this week with the Prime Minister’s plans for the final stage of the reopening. 

‘What’s needed now is a concerted effort between business and government to create widespread confidence from the get go.’

While Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdownsceptic Tory MPs, accused ministers of a ‘shift in policy’ and said that it was ‘torturing the nation’. 

Arguing that for some people wearing a mask is a ‘terrible thing’, he added: ‘It’s not fair snatching away people’s hope, it’s psychologically, profoundly destructive.’

Last week, Mr Johnson said that mask wearing would become ‘a personal choice’ after July 19.

Several senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Environment Secretary George Eustice said they would be ditching their masks at the earliest opportunity.

But Mr Zahawi said yesterday: ‘The guidelines that we’ll set out tomorrow will demonstrate that, including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces.’ 

He also suggested the government is looking at a test and release scheme to replace self-isolation for those who come into contact with a positive case, amid fears that millions of healthy people will be doomed to house arrest as infections rise. 

‘If you do test positive you have to and should rightly then self-isolate but it is important to look at that in a new context of this massive vaccination programme and make sure that it is fit for purpose for this new world,’ he said. 

Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan is still considering a bid to force passengers to keep wearing masks on trains, Tube and buses in London.   

The level of nerves among the wider public was demonstrated today as research by Opinium found half would prefer the unlocking slated to happen a week tomorrow to be delayed.

Some 31 per cent thought the timing was about right, while just 10 per cent said it should have been earlier.  

The PM is expected to give final approval for Stage 4 of the roadmap tomorrow, with almost all legal restrictions set to be lifted.

But Nicola Sturgeon has already vowed to keep masks and other curbs in Scotland for longer. 

Research by Opinium found half would prefer the unlocking slated to happen a week tomorrow to be delayed

Research by Opinium found half would prefer the unlocking slated to happen a week tomorrow to be delayed

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has warned July 19 could turn into ‘anxiety day’, complaining that face coverings should remain a legal requirement. 

He told the Observer: ‘The government is simply wrong to frame everything from here as a matter of pure personal choice. It is not.

‘Many people who are vulnerable to the virus have to use public transport and do their food shopping in person. 

‘That is why the wearing of face coverings in these settings should have remained mandatory. 

‘I will be strongly encouraging the people of Greater Manchester to continue to wear masks on public transport out of respect for others.’

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘Given Sajid Javid now considers it irresponsible to not wear masks then it would be equally irresponsible for his government to carry on with the plan to lift mask requirements while infections are heading to 100,000 a day.

‘Reopening the economy must be done in a safe and sustainable way.

‘That means continued mask wearing, support for increased ventilation standards in premises, decent sick pay, allowing people to continue working from home and ensuring all can access testing rather than introducing charges for lateral flow tests as Sajid Javid now proposes.’ 

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