England will move to the fourth and final stage of the government’s roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions in a week’s time, the health secretary has confirmed to MPs.
In what Sajid Javid said was a “major milestone for this country”, the move to step four on 19 July will see social distancing rules and limits on social contact removed across the country.
And all remaining businesses that have been closed during the pandemic, such as nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen.
“We’ve all be yearning to get there and we all want this to be a one-way journey,” Mr Javid told the Commons.
He said on the evidence before him he did not “believe that infection rates will put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”.
He said it was the “right time” to go to step four, adding: “If not now, when? There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus.”
As part of step four, businesses and large event organisers will be encouraged to use so-called “COVID passports” – proof of double-vaccination, negative test or recovery from coronavirus – in “high-risk” settings in order to limit the spread of infections in their venues.
The government will also no longer instruct people to work from home if they can, although ministers are recommending employers oversee a gradual return to workplaces for their employees this summer.
Despite the legal requirement to wear face masks in shops and on public transport being lifted next Monday, the government will recommend that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as on trains, trams and buses – although not venues such as nightclubs.