Yesterday evening the Prime Minister confirmed that Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap will go ahead on Monday 19 July. The legal rules on social distancing, social contact and face coverings and the instruction to work from home where possible will be lifted from that date, but the Government “expects and recommends a gradual return” to the workplace over the summer.

Key protections being retained include:

  • targeted asymptomatic testing and an encouragement to businesses to use the NHS Covid Pass in high risk settings (save for those engaged in essential services and essential retail, and subject to compliance with all legal obligations, including on equalities); it is also suggested that people may wish to use regular rapid testing to help manage periods of risk such as returning to the workplace;
  • self-isolation for those testing positive or close contacts (although contacts who are fully vaccinated or under 18 will not need to self-isolate from 16 August but may be advised instead to perform a PCR test);
  • continued border quarantine requirements (with the exception of fully UK-vaccinated UK residents returning from amber list countries);
  • while prevalence is high, an expectation and recommendation that face coverings be worn (unless exempt) when coming into contact with people not normally met in enclosed and crowded areas (such as public transport), and an emphasis on minimising social contact and being outside/ventilating indoors spaces. The guidance suggests that carbon dioxide monitors could be used to help identify where a space is poorly ventilated with businesses encouraged to take steps to improve ventilation if carbon dioxide readings are consistently high.

The details published so far are available here; the most comprehensive document is Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread from 19 July. As yet the Government has not updated the list of most important symptoms of the virus despite suggestions from medical experts that these are no longer the key symptoms of the Delta variant.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else as a minimum, and to “think particularly carefully about additional precautions” – updated guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable is available here.

The Government is expected to issue updated “Working safely” guidance for employers in the next few days. It has been reported that six guidance notes will replace the 14 documents currently available here. They are expected to stress the importance of ventilation and the need to continue with risk assessments.

The Government will review the situation in September and consider whether to continue or strengthen public and business guidance as we approach the winter.