FREEDOM ONE: Holiday joy for double jabbed
Boris Johnson is to rescue summer for sun-starved Britons by scrapping quarantine for double-jabbed travellers returning from Spain, Greece and other amber-list hotspots, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The Prime Minister is determined that Freedom Day on July 19 will mean fully protected holidaymakers and their families can enjoy a foreign break without having to isolate when they return to Britain.
The move – which could be announced this week – will be a double boost for families desperate for a Mediterranean holiday and a travel trade that has been brought to its knees by Covid restrictions.
Boris Johnson is to rescue summer for sun-starved Britons by scrapping quarantine for double-jabbed travellers returning from Spain, Greece and other amber-list hotspots, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
No 10 sources said the go-ahead had yet to be given as details were being ironed out, including in relation to children who are not currently vaccinated.
They also stressed that double-jabbed travellers would still have to comply with the strict regime of a Covid test before travel and two tests on return – although there is a possibility that the post-travel tests could be reduced to a single one.
Mr Johnson is said to be set on lifting the need to quarantine for ten days on return from July 19. The requirement has effectively ruled out summer holidays for many families as popular destinations, such as mainland Spanish, Portuguese and Greek resorts, are on the amber list.
The plans, which sources said will be worked through as quickly as possible, involve the use of ‘e-gates’ at airports to avoid queues and make travel as easy as possible for fully protected travellers.
The Prime Minister is determined that Freedom Day on July 19 will mean fully protected holidaymakers and their families can enjoy a foreign break without having to isolate when they return to Britain
But the new system may start with lengthier paper checks at arrivals until the improved technology can be rolled out more widely.
Mr Johnson’s plans came to light after German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the door last week to quarantine-free entry into the EU for vaccinated British visitors.
Germany has insisted on major restrictions on British visitors since the Delta variant took hold here, pushing other EU states to adopt a similar approach – despite resistance from Spain and Greece.
With the variant now spreading widely across the EU, Mrs Merkel used a summit meeting with Mr Johnson last week to suggest that travel restrictions could be reduced for double-jabbed Britons.
Mr Johnson is said to be set on lifting the need to quarantine for ten days on return from July 19
Under the Government’s traffic-light system for foreign travel, people returning from so-called red countries such as India and South Africa must quarantine in a ‘managed hotel’ on their return to protect against possible new Covid variants, stressed No 10 sources.
The green list of countries, which have no quarantine requirements, has been widely mocked for having very few traditional holiday destinations while including remote locations such as the British Antarctic Territory. That system sparked protests from the travel trade amid claims it has devastated a vital part of Britain’s economy.
Last month, airline cabin crew and pilots joined travel agents in a protest at Westminster while airport staff stood with placards on empty runways. They called on the Government to offer the industry greater financial support and increase the number of countries on the UK’s green list, allowing passengers to travel without having to quarantine on their return.
Last week, Tory MP Henry Smith, whose Crawley seat includes Gatwick, urged the Government to use the benefits of the UK’s successful vaccine drive to open up safe air travel.
FREEDOM TWO: No more scanning QR codes to have a pint in the pub
By Anna Mikhailova for the Mail on Sunday
Freedom Day will mark the end of restaurants, pubs and shops demanding that customers provide their personal data.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the legal requirement that people sign into such locations using a Quick Response – or QR – code will be dropped from July 19, as will the need for customers to write down their personal details.
The move will reduce red tape and bureaucracy for the hospitality, events and retail industries, which have suffered severe financial losses during the pandemic.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce the measures on July 12 – providing businesses with a week to adapt to the new rules – and it is understood that legislation introduced last year will be repealed.
Freedom Day will mark the end of restaurants, pubs and shops demanding that customers provide their personal data
Businesses will, however, still be allowed to take customers’ contact details if they wish and the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app will continue to operate to alert people if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Mr Johnson is also expected to reveal within days that those who have had both doses of a vaccine and who come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will be able to carry on as normal without the need to self-isolate or to take daily tests.
The timing of the introduction of the new rules has not been finalised but it is hoped to be in place by early August.
Ministers are expected to sign off the measures during a meeting of the Covid-19 Operations committee tomorrow.
At the urging of the Government’s scientific advisers, coronavirus tests will continue to be offered but will become voluntary, with the public ‘advised’ to take a test, but not legally required to do so.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the legal requirement that people sign into such locations using a Quick Response – or QR – code will be dropped from July 19, as will the need for customers to write down their personal details
A source described the request by experts as a ‘reasonable ask’ given the expectation that the number of coronavirus cases is likely to rise after Freedom Day.
The Government has been buoyed by the public’s support for coronavirus rules in the past 15 months and, according to a source, experts believe the anticipated take-up of voluntary tests could cut new cases by 25 per cent.
The hospitality industry has called for the requirement for those who have been fully vaccinated to isolate to be scrapped sooner over concerns that, while not leading to high deaths, rising numbers of cases over the summer could force millions to have to quarantine.
Dr Adam Kucharski, who sits on the Government’s SPI-M modelling advisory group, said this could lead to ‘similar outcomes to lockdown’.
FREEDOM THREE: Controversial bubbles in schools will be replaced by daily tests
By Anna Mikhailova Deputy Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday
The controversial system of school ‘bubbles’ which has led to hundreds of thousands of pupils being forced to self-isolate at home is to be scrapped and replaced by daily testing.
The Mail on Sunday understands that Boris Johnson will announce this week that children will no longer be barred from the classroom if a pupil in their ‘bubble’ is found to have coronavirus.
Those who have been in contact with the pupil will instead be required to take daily lateral flow tests either at school or at home.
The new rules are expected to begin from July 19 – dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ – but many schools break up for the summer holidays that week so in practice they will come into force when pupils return for the autumn term. They will, however, apply for summer camps.
The controversial system of school ‘bubbles’ which has led to hundreds of thousands of pupils being forced to self-isolate at home is to be scrapped and replaced by daily testing
More than 375,000 pupils were self-isolating on June 24 – an increase of 400 per cent on the previous month – but only four per cent had tested positive for Covid-19. As well as robbing pupils of vital time in lessons, it has caused huge disruption for parents.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said he wanted the ‘bubble’ system in England removed as soon as possible and sources said new Health Secretary Sajid Javid had echoed those sentiments in a call with Conservative MPs.
One of those present said Mr Javid had suggested schools ‘just need to send home kids they sit next to, or kids they are close to’, adding: ‘He was less stringent than [his predecessor] Matt Hancock.’
The anticipated end of the increasingly ridiculed ‘bubble’ system comes amid concern that the failure to have any women in the room when key decisions were made about forcing pupils to self-isolate helped to create the crisis.
The Mail on Sunday understands that Boris Johnson will announce this week that children will no longer be barred from the classroom if a pupil in their ‘bubble’ is found to have coronavirus
One frustrated female Minister told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It is not right to see people rubbing shoulder-to-shoulder in football stadiums while hundreds of thousands of children have to self-isolate even when testing negative for Covid.
‘That’s the problem you get when you don’t have women in the room.’
Another senior source said: ‘I am beside myself when see I pictures of Ascot, Wimbledon, Wembley, while you can’t go and stand at your child’s sports day.
‘Women would have understood this. They will have to take up the slack when children are sent home to isolate – the childcare burden mostly falls on them.’
Mr Johnson has faced questions about improving the gender balance of his top team, with just five women among the 27 people who attend Cabinet meetings. The so-called ‘quad’ of Ministers who have taken the key decisions during the Covid-19 crisis have been the Prime Minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Mr Hancock.
Those who have been in contact with the pupil will instead be required to take daily lateral flow tests either at school or at home
Caroline Nokes, the Tory MP who chairs the women and equalities select committee, said: ‘Here we are, 18 months into the pandemic and there are still no women in the quad.’
Studies have shown that women have been placed under particular pressure during the pandemic. Research by Ipsos MORI last year found 49 per cent of mothers had taken on more childcare responsibilities during lockdown, compared to only 23 per cent of fathers.
Insiders say the recent departure of influential female aides, including former No 10 press secretary Allegra Stratton and special adviser Cleo Watson, has exacerbated the problem. One source said of Ms Watson: ‘She was very good.
‘She stood up to male counterparts when she needed to.’
FREEDOM FOUR: Masks to be voluntary in shops and on buses
By Stephen Adams Medical Editor for the Mail on Sunday
Wearing facemasks will become voluntary everywhere apart from hospitals and other health facilities from July 19.
The proposed new rules will mean that public transport passengers, shoppers and those visiting pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres will no longer be required by law to cover up.
Boris Johnson is expected to make the announcement within days, having come to the conclusion that Britain’s world-beating vaccination programme has broken the link between infections and hospitalisations to the extent that mandatory mask-wearing beyond ‘Freedom Day’ is unnecessary. The Mail on Sunday understands that a face covering will be voluntary in all situations apart from in hospitals and other health and social care settings, which will retain the legal requirement for masks.
Wearing facemasks will become voluntary everywhere apart from hospitals and other health facilities from July 19
However, it is still likely there will be guidance encouraging people to wear one in some enclosed places where people come into close contact with each other.
The move will not be universally popular. Some groups, such as the British Medical Association which represents doctors, have been lobbying for a continuation of what the BMA describes as ‘sensible, cautious measures’.
It was reported that Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, believed people might still need to wear masks on public transport and in other enclosed spaces, but he appears to have been won over.
The change will be welcomed by businesses, particularly in hospitality and entertainment.
In England, current rules require customers to wear a mask inside pubs, bars and restaurants ‘except when seated’ – and theatre and cinema-goers have to wear one while sitting down.
Punch Taverns boss Hugh Osmond said he would ‘100 per cent’ welcome the dropping of facemask rules and ‘a full return to normal’.
He added: ‘We were always promised that once the vulnerable were fully vaccinated, that would signal a return to normal, not a semi- normal with ongoing requirements to wear masks.’