Almost all restrictions on social contact end as Oxfordshire, like the rest of England, moves to the final stage of easing lockdown restrictions in what the PM has heralded as ‘Freedom Day’. But as England moves to step 4 of the roadmap, here’s some guidance on what you can and cannot do.
Although most legal restrictions have been lifted, and many people have been vaccinated, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated, and we are still in the third wave of this pandemic in the county.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others. But while cases remain high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and cautiously.
While no situation is risk-free, there are actions we can take to protect ourselves and others around us. Use common sense and personal judgement to manage our own risk.
Test when you have symptoms. There will continue to be targeted asymptomatic testing in education and high-risk workplaces to help people manage their personal risk.
You will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with. There will also be no limits on the number of people you can meet.
The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can but would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer months.
However, to minimise risk at a time of high prevalence, you should limit the close contact you have with those you do not usually live with. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts. Meet outdoors where possible, and if meeting indoors or other enclosed spaces, ventilate and let fresh air in.
There will no longer be limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events (including receptions and celebrations). There will be no requirement for table service at life events or restrictions on singing or dancing. There will no longer be restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship.
While the requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted, it is worth remembering that COVID-19 spreads through the air by droplets and aerosols exhaled from the nose and mouth of an infected person.
The government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. In a collective statement, Oxford’s culture venues have said they will continue to encourage masks or face-coverings after 19 July.
All hospitality businesses and venues such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues will be able to reopen. All capacity limits at sporting, entertainment, or business events will be lifted.
Hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and bars will no longer be required to provide table service or follow other social distancing rules.
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. You should self-isolate at home while you book the test and wait for the results.
You must self-isolate if you test positive. Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days.
You must also self-isolate if you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace, for example, if you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive. This remains the law, regardless of your vaccination status.
From 16 August, if you have been fully vaccinated, you will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if you are a contact of a positive case. You will instead be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible.
You will also be exempt from self-isolation from 16 August if you are under 18 and a contact of a positive case. As with adults, you will be advised whether a PCR test needs to be taken.
If you test positive, you will still need to self-isolate regardless of your vaccination status or age.
All adults in England have now been offered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. It usually takes around two to three weeks for an antibody response to develop. You need two doses of vaccine for maximum protection against COVID-19.
However, even if you have been fully vaccinated, you could still get COVID-19 and get sick – a recent PHE report shows that around 1 in 5 people who are double-vaccinated are still vulnerable to getting infected with the Delta variant and showing symptoms. You can also still spread COVID-19 to others.
There are no restrictions on travel within England. If you’re planning to travel to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, or to Ireland or the Channel Islands, you should check the rules at your destination as there may be local restrictions in place.