Good things come to those who wait, and heaven knows we’ve waited a long time for July 19 – ‘Freedom Day’. But while this is set to be a landmark date for domestic reopening, with the end of social distancing rules, mandatory face coverings and the Rule of Six, what will it mean for your holidays?
Whether you’re planning to stay on UK turf this summer, scoop a last-minute green list getaway, or work remotely from a poolside sunlounger – here’s what you need to know.
The return of big group holidays...
The Prime Minister has said that the ‘Rule of Six’ indoors will be scrapped in the next stage of the roadmap, meaning that your big group holiday should be able to go ahead as planned. Currently, no more than six people from different households, or a larger group (up to 30) of no more than two households, can meet indoors – but that restriction should end from July 19. The one-metre social distancing rule will likely also cease.
Hotels, holiday rentals, restaurants and entertainment venues will no longer be compelled to enquire about the size or ‘bubble’ status of your group – enabling you to socialise ‘freely’ both indoors and out.
However, individual venues will still be able to set their own rules regarding group sizes, face coverings and social distancing for example. So check with the venue before you book: as such restrictions won’t be legal legislation, this could well be a grey area for refund entitlement if your plans flout the company’s rules.
… and evenings at the bar
Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues will be able to operate as they did pre-pandemic, with no requirement for mandatory table service, bookings or reduced capacity. However, as above, venues will be entitled to set their own rules; while it is unlikely that many will actively seek to turn customers away, this may well lead to confusion over individual policies.
So while you may be free to hang out at the hotel bar, it may still be strictly table service in the pub down the road.
The requirement to scan a QR code when entering a hotel, restaurant, or other venue will also be dropped – although businesses will still be free to voluntarily do so, to reassure customers and help track outbreaks.
UK holidays could get confusing
While England is set to enjoy its ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, the lifting of lockdown restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will take place on different dates. So if you’re planning on a holiday in the UK, the rules in your destination may not be identical to those at home.
In Scotland, all major restrictions are hoped to be lifted by August 9, three weeks after England’s deadline. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has offered no dates, but its current measures are expected to be reviewed again later this month.
In Wales, the next review of lockdown measures is due on July 15, so it may remain in-step with England, with any easings likely to come into force the following Monday, July 19. Throughout the pandemic, this devolved approach to restrictions has been devilishly confusing – so you’ll want to brush up on local restrictions before you travel.
No more ‘working from holiday’
While most of us have worked from home throughout the pandemic, some enterprising souls have managed to ‘work from holiday’ – relocating to sunnier climes while still putting the hours in remotely. Cue the ‘workcation’: an excruciating portmanteau, yes, but one of the few silver linings of lockdown life.
But from July 19, this is due to come to an abrupt end. Ministers will soften the guidance which currently states that “everyone who can work from home must do so” – enabling companies to call their employees back into the office, without the need to navigate restrictions such as social distancing, face coverings and the Rule of Six.
So, if you want to relocate your remote office to somewhere a little warmer, now is your final chance to do so. Frustratingly, with the recent additions to the green list, our travel horizons are wider today than they have been in months – so heading back to the office feels especially cruel. Suddenly, ‘Freedom Day’ looks like a misnomer…
The end of masks on public transport?
Boris Johnson has announced that face coverings, along with social distancing rules, will no longer be necessary from July 19 – though there may still be guidance in place in some areas, such as on public transport and in some shops.
Private venues, including hotels and restaurants, will also be entitled to set their own mask rules – so while you will not need a face covering for your train journey or dinner reservation, you may still need one at hotel check-in or while travelling on a plane. However, this may not be a legal requirement.
A broader green list?
While not linked to ‘Freedom Day’ (at least officially) the next update to the Government’s travel traffic light system is due on July 15 – with any changes likely to take effect from July 19. So, in theory, we could be enjoying wider liberties on home soil, as well as a wider choice of green list getaways.
However, it feels unlikely that ministers will sign off any huge changes to our overseas holiday destinations, on the very day that domestic ‘freedom’ is restored – especially as virus cases in the UK continue to rise.
Scrapping quarantine for amber-list arrivals
The Government is expected to announce that all fully vaccinated arrivals from amber-list countries will be able avoid a ten-day quarantine on return back to the UK. It is unknown when this will come into force, but it is expected to be from late July.