Company heads say 'the show must go on' as they prepare to ditch masks
Company bosses say ‘the show must go on’ as they prepare to ditch masks from July 19 – while unions slam Government for leaving it up to firms to make their own rules on how workers can safely return to work
- Freedom Day in two weeks is expected to see the end of many restrictions
- Company bosses have welcomed the incoming date and the end of rules
- Face masks are set to be jettisoned, thanks to massive vaccine drive
Company bosses are preparing to abandon masks after Covid restrictions relax on July 19 – but unions say the Government needs to issue guidelines on what can happen.
So-called Freedom Day in two weeks is expected to see the end of many restrictions on normal life curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently people are being urged to work from home if they can and all workplaces have to be Covid-secure, with increased air flow, face masks, social distancing and hand sanitiser a norm.
But these curbs on life are set to be jettisoned thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing serious illness.
Large and small businesses alike told MailOnline they are looking forward to bringing a back a more normal way of working.
Price Waterhouse-Cooper, who employ over 20,000 people in the UK, confirmed it would be following government guidelines in all offices.
And digital marketing firm 303.london said masks would no longer be needed in meetings.
Founder Olly Fawcett, 26, told MailOnline: ‘Covid is part of the new life we have to live with, at home and work.
Workplaces have been hit by a number of restrictions including masks and social distancing
The Covid regualtions have made working in offices a different experience for staff
‘We have a very young team and while they are less likely to have a severe reaction, they have just as big a duty to behave responsibly as any one else.
‘We shoot with cameras all the time so masks and social distancing have been a massive challenge for the industry.
‘We’ve decided any one who doesn’t want to come to a meeting unless everyone wears masks, we will work around, but the meeting goes ahead.
‘They can ring in, catch up or we’ll hold the meeting outside.
‘Everyone must feel safe and happy at work but the stage is now fully lit and the show must go on.’
Mental health app company Tahora said it wanted to get people mask-free, but would allow them if people felt they wanted to still wear them.
Co-founder Mike Rose said: ‘A minority can not dictate the behaviour or the majority so from Freedom Day no one at work is required to wear a mask in tahora.
‘Obviously any one that wants to can, but business is returning to normal and we want to encourage that. We expect to see organisations with several thousand employees will have measures in place to make sure people have options about working closely.
‘Our view is very much to get everyone mask-free and engaged again. Its vital for mental health we all connect and speaking face to face with people means just that.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street in central London before tonight’s speech
‘Smiling faces are good for business, good for people and very welcome after a hell of a year.’
There is some confusion on exactly how all the restrictions will be lifted in workplaces.
Paul Nowac TUC deputy general secretary said: ‘I don’t think the government have got it right. Potentially we are going to see millions of people return to the workspace from July 19 some of them won’t have been in work for a year or more and I think it’s vital that when they do return to work that they have confidence that their workplaces are as covid secure as possible, that it’s as safe as possible – I just don’t think its acceptable for the government to outsource its responsibilities to individuals and indeed to individual employers.
‘Of course personal responsibility will have a role to play but government can’t just wash its hands of this issue.
‘I think the first thing to do is say whether that central advice of working from home if you can do so is going to change, it’s important that employers have time to prepare m that their workers have time to prepare to go back to the workplace, If that guidance is going to change they are going to have to update the guidance they currently have for covid secure working.
The announcement of the Freedom Day blueprint comes as infection rates continue to rise. Figures from Sunday show that 24,248 people tested positive for the virus, the highest number since January 26. But promisingly, the number of people going into hospital is still low and those dying within 28 days of a positive test has remained a fraction of this number, with just 15 deaths recorded yesterday
Time for the bar! From table service to working from home, those changing rules
Boris Johnson is to declare an end to most lockdown restrictions from July 19 today, with social distancing rules, the work from home order, and mask mandates to be ditched as he will argue that we must learn to live with coronavirus as we do with the flu.
The Prime Minister will use a press conference this afternoon to confirm a bonfire of virus rules and restrictions from the so-called Freedom Day later this month, in which he will say that individuals will again be able to judge the risks of coronavirus for themselves.
PUBS AND RESTAURANTS
Hospitality venues in England will no longer be required to collect track and trace data from July 19. Businesses won’t have to ask customers to scan a QR code using the NHS phone app on entry or to hand over their contact details, although they will have the option of continuing to do so if they wish. Mandatory table service rules will also be scrapped, meaning drinkers will be able to order at the bar again in pubs.
Wearing masks will become voluntary everywhere apart from hospitals and other health facilities from July 19 in England. Public transport passengers, shoppers and those visiting pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres will no longer be required by law to cover up. However, people may still be encouraged to wear masks in some enclosed places where they come into close contact with each other, for example on London Tube trains.
Double-jabbed Britons will be allowed to enjoy a foreign break without having to isolate when they return to England. People who have had both vaccine doses will no longer have to quarantine for ten days after visiting amber list countries, such as Spain, France and Greece. It is possible the change to the travel rules will come into force on July 19, but Government sources last night cautioned that this date is seen as ‘ambitious’.
TEST AND TRACE
People in England who have received both coronavirus vaccine doses will no longer have to isolate at home for ten days if they have come into contact with someone who tests positive. They will be offered lateral flow tests to do themselves at home instead, although these will not be compulsory. The change could come into force on July 19, although the date has not yet been finalised.
The bubbles system that has seen whole classes or year groups sent home if just one pupil tests positive for coronavirus will be scrapped in England. Ministers are planning to announce a new way of handling outbreaks ready for the new school year in September. Instead of sending children home en masse, those who have come into contact with a positive case are likely to be given daily tests.
WORK FROM HOME
The official guidance telling people to ‘work from home if you can’ will be scrapped on July 19 in England. But it will be left up to employers and their staff to decide whether they have to go back to their desks. Ministers will not launch a campaign encouraging staff back to the office and are resigned to there not being a mass return to workplaces this summer.
‘Sometimes personal choices can rub up against each other.
‘These are the sort of things that sensible guidance would help give employers at least a framework to work against.’
Boris Johnson is due to outline exactly what that will look like at a 5pm press conference today, where he’s expected to urge people to use their own judgement to manage the risk of Covid instead of relying on official rules.
Mandatory mask-wearing is expected to be ditched everywhere except in hospitals and other health facilities when the remaining curbs are lifted in England on July 19.
Mr Johnson will also confirm an end to the two metre social distancing rule, while pubs and other venues will not have to collect customer details and will again be able to serve drinks at the bar for the first time since the pandemic began.
England’s original Freedom Day on June 21 was pushed back a month because of fears about the ultra-infectious Indian variant, which started spiralling out of control in May.
Infections have risen ten-fold in the past two months and there are now an average 25,000 people catching the virus every day.
But ministers have grown increasingly confident in the vaccines because deaths and hospitalisations have not spiralled at the same pace.
There are just over 300 Covid hospital admissions every day now — 10 times fewer than the last time infections were this high in February — and 17 daily deaths.
Over the last few weeks, the Prime Minister and his ministers have repeated calls for the country to learn to live with Covid ‘as we already do with flu’.
Later today, Mr Johnson will announce plans to move the onus of Covid precautions onto individuals, rather than mandatory measures.
Robert Jenrick, Housing Secretary, told Sky News yesterday: ‘We are now going to move into a period where there won’t be legal restrictions – the state won’t be telling you what to do – but you will want to exercise a degree of personal responsibility and judgement.’
Under the blueprint, hospitality venues will no longer have to record track and trace information from customers, but can continue to do this if they choose to.
Customers will also be able to go to the bar to order, with strict table service measures coming to an end.
People returning from a holiday abroad in an amber country, who have received both jabs, may no longer have to isolate for 10 days.
Those who have had both vaccines may not need to isolate at home if they had contact with someone who has the virus.
But these changes to isolation rules may come into force after July 19.
Mr Johnson is also expected to outline a new approach to Covid in schools from the beginning of the school year in September.
The current approach has been criticised, with hundreds of thousands of pupils being forced to stay at home because just one classmate tests positive.
The Prime Minister will also announce a change to work from home rules, with companies being permitted to decide whether their staff will be returning to the office.
The announcement of the Freedom Day blueprint comes as infection rates continue to rise. Figures from Sunday show that 24,248 people tested positive for the virus, the highest number since January 26.
But the number of people dying within 28 days of a positive test has remained a fraction of this number, with just 15 deaths recorded yesterday.
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