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Freedom Day: What can you do today?

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Here is what you can do now Freedom Day has arrived.

MEETING OTHERS

House parties and large family gatherings are back on, with people finally allowed to meet in big groups.

The Rule of Six, or two households, has been scrapped, both indoors and out. Social distancing rules requiring people to stay two metres apart, or one metre with additional precautions, are also a thing of the past.

However, the Government says people should still “consider the risks of close contact with others”, particularly those who are vulnerable or not fully vaccinated. Social distancing will still be required in some instances, including at ports of entry between leaving a plane/boat and border controls to manage the risk of new variants being transmitted.

HOSPITALITY

Pubs and restaurants will no longer be table service only, meaning punters will be able to order drinks from the bar while standing.

And there will be no limits on the number of people allowed at one table.

Pub group JD Wetherspoon said it will revert back to “successful measures” it had in place last summer. While allowing customers to order at the bar again, it will still encourage people to use its app for ordering meals and drinks to reduce contact.

Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, said: “While risks from COVID-19 cannot be eliminated completely, we believe the guidelines are a sensible backstop for the industry and strike a fair balance between health, employment and the economy.”

Nightclubs will also be allowed to reopen for the first time since shutting in March 2020. Venues won’t need customer details but will be urged to display QR codes for the NHS COVID-19 app.

TRANSPORT

Although blanket face mask rules have been lifted, some transport operators are still demanding passengers wear them.

Face coverings are still required by Transport for London including on the Tube, buses and trams.

Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “I urge everyone to continue to follow the advice and requirements, including to wear face coverings.”

Tyne and Wear metro and Metrolink trams in Greater Manchester are still asking passengers to wear masks.

Train industry body the Rail Delivery Group says people should put one on “if an indoor setting gets busy”.

Taxi app Uber says drivers and passengers will still have to cover up.

CARE HOMES

Restrictions limiting care home residents to only five named visitors each have been lifted, allowing more contact with loved ones.

Care homes will need to retain some infection control measures though.

New Government guidance says physical contact should be minimal but some contact “like handholding is acceptable if hand washing protocols are followed”.

It adds: “Close personal contact such as hugging presents higher risks but will be safer if it is between people who are double vaccinated, without face-to-face contact, and there is brief contact only.”

Patients, staff and visitors must still wear masks and maintain distancing in healthcare settings, including GP surgeries, hospitals, dental practices and pharmacies.

WEDDINGS & FUNERALS

All restrictions on weddings, funerals and bar/bat mitzvahs have been removed.

The number that can be safely accommodated at venues is no longer limited by rules on social distancing. Table service is not required and guests can sing and dance freely.

Louise Bowen, Covid bereavement co-ordinator at the end-of-life charity Marie Curie, said the lifting of funeral restrictions was welcome for millions to say goodbye to loved ones in person.

She said: “For many people, funerals are an important part of their grieving process and it has been heart-breaking so many have not had the opportunity to say a final goodbye.

“While we encourage everyone to proceed with caution, we hope the easing of restrictions allows people to grieve surrounded by the support of friends and family.”

GYMS & SPAS

Gyms will no longer need to block off areas to keep people distanced.

It is likely that some will continue to advise customers to wipe down equipment after use, although this will no longer be mandatory.

There has not been a requirement for gym goers to wear masks indoors and that will not change today.

Spas had previously limited capacity for sitting by the pool because of social distancing. These will be lifted depending on the firm.

People looking forward to being pampered again will be given robes after some venues had stopped handing them out to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Guests will no longer need to wear face masks during their treatments either.

SCHOOLS

Class bubbles come to an end this week as schools enter the last week before the summer holidays.

However, head teachers have been told they “may wish to continue with these measures until the end of your summer term”.

It also means assemblies do not need to be socially distanced and children can mix at lunch and play time.

Face masks will also no longer be a requirement for pupils, staff or visitors in classrooms, communal areas or on dedicated school transport.

THEATRES/SPORT

Theatres can today reopen to full audiences for the first time in 16 months.

And audience members will no longer need to social distance, meaning all seats can be filled.

The public will no longer have to wear masks inside although the Government recommends people do still wear face coverings in crowded indoor settings.

The actors’ union Equity has called for self-isolation rules for the entertainment industry to be changed, warning current regulations are having a “devastating and costly impact”.

Large events, such as music concerts, festivals and sporting events can also resume without any limits on the numbers attending or on social distancing requirements.

Covid-status certification will not be required in law as a condition of entry for visitors.

WORKPLACES

The order to work from home wherever possible has been lifted, although the Government has said a gradual return to the office is safest.

Boris Johnson said he did not “expect that the whole country will return to their desks as one from Monday”.

Guidance has been issued to employers on how they should make workplaces as safe as possible, including having good ventilation and cleaning regimes.

Some workplaces will still ask staff to bring their masks to the office.

A spokesman for US banking giant Goldman Sachs said last week that staff would be required to wear masks in the London office “when not at their desk”.

He also confirmed the bank would not require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before coming to work.

SHOPS

Supermarkets have encouraged customers and staff to continue wearing face coverings although this will no longer be a legal requirement.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi and Waitrose are among retailers who prefer them to be worn.

But it is understood they will not deny entry to those not wearing them.

The John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, said: “Across all of our stores we will be retaining perspex screens and hand sanitising stations.

“We will also maintain all of the hand hygiene and store cleaning disciplines.”

Social distancing in stores will be scrapped although people have been urged to respect others’ space.

Most retailers will keep hand sanitiser stations. Smaller stores may still have to limit capacity using a traffic-light system.

SELF-ISOLATION

The rules on self-isolation remain the same for now.

But double-jabbed individuals and under 18s from August 16 will no longer need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

They will have to take a PCR test but only self-isolate if it is positive.

It will only apply for two weeks after a second jab, allowing time for protection to develop.

OTHER PARTS OF UK

All parts of Scotland move into level zero of its five-tier system today but face masks remain mandatory.

There are still limits on the number of people allowed to meet in homes and public places while employees are still asked to work from home where possible.

Wales now lets six meet indoors in homes without distancing.

From August 7, all legal limits on how many can meet are due to be dropped both indoors and out.
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