UK could return to near-normal ‘possibly in time for Christmas’

Friday, July 17, 2020

Boris Johnson has said the UK could see a “more significant” return to normality before Christmas as he laid out the updated timetable for the coronavirus lockdown exit strategy.

Speaking at Downing Street, the Prime Minister said from tomorrow local authorities in England will have new powers to tackle local outbreaks, including closing specific premises, shutting outdoor spaces and cancelling events.

Ministers in central government will also be able to implement local stay at home orders, prevent entering or leaving a particular zone, reduce gathering sizes beyond the national guidelines or restrict certain transport systems.

From August 1 the blanket advice about working from home will end and employers will have more discretion over whether staff should travel to the workplace.

The start of August will also see most remaining leisure centres reopening, permission to host indoor performances with live audiences and trials beginning for larger gatherings in places like sports stadiums, “with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn”.

Shielding advice for people who are vulnerable to the virus will be paused at the end of this month, but will be reinstated if required.

All schools and nurseries will return from September on a permanent basis and the following month will allow for conferences and audiences in stadia – subject to successful pilot schemes.

Mr Johnson concluded: “It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return from November at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.”

He confirmed an extra £3billion to help the NHS prepare for winter, when it will be subject to existing seasonal pressures on top of Covid-19.

Part of the preparations will include increasing antigen testing capacity to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October. This will help to quickly determine whether symptoms are caused by coronavirus or seasonal flu.

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