Posted: Tue 20th Jul 2021
Step four of the government's COVID-19 roadmap for England went ahead on 19 July with the planned removal of most legal restrictions. Here's what it means for businesses.
We are keeping this post updated as the government publishes new guidance.
Speaking in Parliament, Savid Javid said the government's four tests for easing restrictions have been met, which means the changes could go ahead: "We have looked closely at the data, against these four tests. And we firmly believe that this is the right time to get our nation closer to normal life. So we will move to the next stage on our roadmap on July 19th."
"We delayed step four by four weeks so we could build our vaccine wall even higher. We believe this wall means we can withstand a summer wave. And while the wall would be higher still in winter, we know the wave would be much more dangerous.
"So while we know there are risks with any decision, this is the most responsible decision we could take.
"This step forward is about balancing the harms caused by COVID, with the undeniable harms that restrictions bring."
All businesses, including nightclubs, theatres and cinemas, were able to open from 19 July with no need for social distancing or restrictions on capacity.
The rule of six is removed and in hospitality businesses, table service is no longer be a legal requirement and people can queue at the bar.
Despite the removal of legal restrictions, the government's guidance for the hospitality sector still encourages businesses to consider using measures such as screens at tills and counters to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading between workers and customers
But weddings, funerals and other life events can take place without limits or restrictions but government guidance says measures such as table service and restrictions on singing and dancing should continue to be considered to reduce the risk of transmission.
There is no longer a legal requirement to wear face coverings and fines for not wearing one will no longer be imposed. However, the government says it is "expected and recommended" that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed indoor settings such as public transport unless they are exempt.
Many businesses, such as Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waterstones and lots of small companies, have chosen to actively encourage customers to wear masks. Transport for London has made mask-wearing mandatory.
Although there is currently no legal requirement, the government is encouraging high risk settings" such as nightclubs and large events to use the NHS COVID Pass or so-called 'COVID-19 passports'. This requires people entering such premises or events to prove they have been double vaccinated, had a negative lateral flow test in the last 48 hours or have antibodies because they tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR less than six months ago.
The NHS COVID Pass is available through the NHS App, NHS.UK, or as a letter that can be requested by ringing NHS 119. Visitors can also show a text or email confirmation of test results.
A document outlining the changes says: "The government reserves the right to mandate certification in certain venues at a later date if necessary."
On 19 July, Boris Johnson announced that from the end of September, the COVID-19 Pass will be mandatory to enter nightclubs and other venues with large crowds. Evidence of a double vaccination will only be accepted. Visitors will not be able to show a negative test result to enter a venue.
The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can but in updated guidance for businesses, the government says it "expects and recommends a gradual return [to workplaces] over the summer".
The guidance also says: "You should discuss a return to the workplace with workers, and trade unions to make working arrangements that meet both business and individual needs.
"You should remain responsive to workers’ needs, particularly during this period when not every adult will have been offered two vaccine doses. You should adopt practices that help to reduce the risks to individuals in the workplace."
It is no longer a legal requirement but businesses are encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or to collect customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace.
Positive cases and contacts of positive cases identified by NHS Test and Trace will still be legally required to self-isolate. Contacts of positive cases for under 18s and double vaccinated adults will be exempt from self-isolating from 16 August.
Javid said the situation will be reviewed in September "to assess our preparedness for autumn and winter".
The government has published updated guidance for businesses in England to follow from 19 July: