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Freedom Day in Suffolk: This is how things are changing and what Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted from today




It is a momentous day across Suffolk today - and England as a whole - as it marks the first time in 16 months that the majority of the legal coronavirus restrictions brought in during the pandemic have come to an end.

As of today - so-called 'freedom day' - social distancing has been scrapped, as has the legal requirement to wear face masks, although many supermarkets, businesses and public transport companies have said they will be encouraging people to continue using them.

The change in rules also means that groups of more than six people from multiple households can be together indoors, and nightclubs can reopen for the first time since last March.

Will you continue to wear a face mask now that you're not legally required to wear one? Picture is Ipswich town centre. Picture by Mark Westley
Will you continue to wear a face mask now that you're not legally required to wear one? Picture is Ipswich town centre. Picture by Mark Westley

This is how things have changed from today:

– What measures have gone?

Those omnipresent two-metre warning signs can be taken down, because social distancing is being scrapped.

Signs such as this one asking for two metre social distancing to be adhered to can now be taken down
Signs such as this one asking for two metre social distancing to be adhered to can now be taken down

The decision paves the way for groups of more than six people from multiple households to hang out indoors, and for nightclubs to get the smoke machines back on.

– Can we all bin our face masks as well?

Legally, yes. But the Government has said it expects and recommends face coverings to be worn in crowded areas, such as public transport.

– What if the nightclub dance floor is packed – have we got to wear masks then?

No, you can dance with your face on full show.

Instead of mask-wearing in such settings, the Government is recommending that businesses and large events use 'certification' as a basis of entry to venues deemed 'high risk', especially when prevalence of coronavirus is high as it is currently.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA
Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: PA

– Wait a minute, isn’t this what vaccine passports were all about?

Pretty much, except it will not be mandatory, only recommended.

To gain entry to venues choosing to go down the certification route, punters must be able to show proof of having been fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior, evidence of a negative lateral flow test in the past two days, or a positive PCR test in the past six months to confirm a level of immunity to Covid-19.

– What about if I just want to go to the pub, will I need a vaccine passport then?

Possibly. The Government is not being prescriptive about what venues fit its description, so it will be up to venue management or landlords themselves to decide whether vaccine passports are necessary to guarantee the safety of staff and patrons.

– Does the fact that people will be required to show proof of a negative test mean NHS Test and Trace will remain in place?

That is right.

And the side-effect of that is that you will still be able to be 'pinged' by the contact tracing app and will have to self-isolate if NHS Test and Trace finds you have been in close contact with a positive case.

However, that requirement will be abolished on August 16 for those double jabbed and those who are under the age of 18.

Testing will still be available after today, while hotel quarantine will continue to be enforced for those UK residents travelling back from red listed countries.

– If masks and self-isolation are staying, can we at least work from home still?

That is not the advice coming from Government.

The guidance is for everyone to return to their workplace, but just not all at once. Downing Street is recommending a gradual return over the summer.

– Why all the caution if we are at the end of the road map?

The Prime Minister told the nation that his tests for unlocking have been met but that the pandemic is not over.

Mr Javid told MPs that – fuelled by the Delta variant, first identified in India, the daily Covid case rate could rise to 100,000 per day, but said the Government is confident that the vaccination programme has 'severely weakened' the link between cases, hospital admissions and deaths, meaning the NHS will not be overwhelmed.

Mr Johnson stressed that caution and restraint are 'more important than ever' as the country transitions from being told how to behave, to being afforded personal responsibility.

– If the pandemic is still raging, what should the clinically vulnerable do?

The crux of the recommendations is for those in that category to get fully vaccinated, meet others outdoors, meet only with others who have been vaccinated and to check their eligibility for ongoing support schemes.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk