Life will return to near-normal across England from July 19 as the country enters Stage 4 of lockdown.
Almost all pandemic restrictions will end, including social distancing and face mask laws – although there’s been some confusion around the latter, with ministers saying masks will still be “expected” in some situations, although they’ll no longer be legally mandatory.
After almost 18 months, many of us will have forgotten what “normal” looks like. So here are the main ways the changes will impact your life, from work to socialising.
Socialising with more than five people
The rule of six will be removed on indoor gatherings from July 19 in England, meaning a big family get together or a house party with your mates will soon be legal. The current limit on 30 people meeting outdoors will also be lifted.
Normal service at pubs and restaurants
Stage 4 of lockdown marks the end of table service-only at pubs and bars – which some of us will certainly miss. But face coverings will no longer be mandatory, meaning you won’t have to put one on to enter the premises or visit the loo.
You’ll also be able to go to a pub, cafe or restaurant with friends and family in a big group, without worrying about the rule of six indoors.
Nightclubs will also be permitted to reopen with full numbers – for the first time since lockdown rules were implemented in March 2020.
While Covid “passports” won’t be mandatory, health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that hospitality settings – including pubs and nightclubs – will be “supported and encouraged” to use a certification system to check if customers have had a recent negative test or have been double-jabbed with a vaccine.
Travel (slightly) more easily
International travel will be a little bit easier from July 19, as those who have been double jabbed will no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days at home after returning from an amber destination. Children under 18 will also be exempt from the amber isolation.
However, there’s still a series of Covid tests to contend with, whether you’ve returned from a green, amber or red destination. You’ll also need to check out the entry requirements of the country you’re visiting. Read our full travel guide for more details.
Weddings without limits
Big weddings are back! On June 21, the government lifted the restrictions on guest numbers at weddings but venues were still expected to implement social distancing, meaning some venues still had to heavily restrict guest numbers. From July 19, though, social distancing will no longer be mandatory, meaning venues can operate at full capacity.
Wearing face masks during indoor ceremonies will also no longer be mandatory and the advice against standing drinks receptions, indoor dancing and singing will be removed.
Working from work
The order to “work from home where possible” will be scrapped from July 19, so your workplace may expect you to get back to the office.
With Covid cases continuing to rise, a number of companies are taking a more cautious approach and many are offering hybrid or flexible models to allow workers to have more control over their working environment.
School bubbles burst
Current rules state that children have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble – which can be an entire year group at secondary school – tests positive for coronavirus. It’s meant thousands of pupils missing face-to-face lessons in recent weeks.
From July 19, the school bubble system will be scrapped and pupils will only have to isolate if they test positive.
Self-isolation rules are also changing for adults and those who have been double jabbed will no longer need to isolate when coming into contact with Covid. However, that rule does not change until August 16.
Large events resume
From July 19, theatres can open to full audiences for the first time in over a year. Mass events, such as festivals, will also be allowed, but Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), has said it’ll be too late for many of this summer’s festivals to get off the ground. He’s calling for a government-backed insurance scheme to give organisers better security.
Meanwhile, spectator limits at concerts and sporting events will also be lifted. Again, Covid certificates will not be legally required for entry, but they will be “encouraged,” meaning you can expect to see some event organisers using them.