Freedom day? What's allowed in England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland

·10-min read
Nightclubs are now able to open with no restrictions on numbers. (Getty Images)
Nightclubs are now able to open with no restrictions on numbers. (Getty Images)

It's a big day for the country as Monday 19 July marks so-called 'Freedom Day', when most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions are lifted. 

After more than 18 months of rules and regulations, almost all measures have today been lifted in England, allowing life to largely return to how it was before COVID-19. 

Nightclubs can now reopen, you'll no longer have to limit inside get-togethers to six friends, and guidance about working from home will also be lifted, meaning many can return to their place of work. 

You'll also no longer be legally required to wear a face covering inside shops and hospitality venues, although the government is still urging people to continue to mask-up when in busy indoor spaces.  

The onus of responsibility has shifted considerably today, with decisions about whether to take actions to curb the spread of the virus flipping largely from the state to individuals and company bosses.

Read more: What are COVID passports and when will you need one?

But this, as well as continual changes to rules surrounding foreign travel, has left many confused about what they can and can't legally do. 

Especially as the changes brought about by ‘Freedom Day’ only actually apply to those in England, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have each set out their own separate plans for easing restrictions.

So, what exactly will change from today for people in England? And what are the current rules in other parts of the UK? 

The rule of six has been scrapped indoors. (Getty Images)
The rule of six has been scrapped indoors. (Getty Images)

Rule of six scrapped

From today you'll no longer have to be selective about who you invite to a dinner indoors, as the indoor rule of six is now a thing of the past. 

That means groups of more than six people from multiple households will be able to hang out indoors and outdoors.

You can be closer than two metres

On a similar note, the two metre rule has also been scrapped. This will help pave the way for pubs, bars and restaurants to accommodate more people inside. 

You'll also be able to order a drink at the bar from today

Face masks are no longer mandatory... except where companies have their own rules

Up until today, unless exempt, people have been required by law to wear a face covering on public transport and inside shops, pubs and other indoor public areas.

From today, however, the government has said face masks will no longer be compulsory.

But before you throwaway your face mask for good, it is worth noting that the government "expects" people to continue wearing them in busy or "enclosed spaces".

A number of cities and regions have also introduced their own rules on mask-wearing on public transport, including London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North of Tyne, and West of England.

Supermarket chains, including Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, will also encourage customers to keep masks on.

Many airlines are keeping face mask restrictions in place too. British Airways and Ryanair have stated their policies will not change, while EasyJet states the guidance around the wearing of masks onboard also remains unchanged.

It is no longer mandatory to wear a face covering in indoor settings, though they are still being encouraged in busy indoor areas. (Getty Images)
It is no longer mandatory to wear a face covering in indoor settings, though they are still being encouraged in busy indoor areas. (Getty Images)

Read more: Ca-nine to Five: How to prepare your pooch for the daily commute

Self isolation rules are here to stay... for the time being

Self-isolation rules will remain in place after 19 July, but will change less than a month later.

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid said that fully-vaccinated adults and anybody under 18 will be exempt from having to isolate at home for 10 days if they've come into contact with someone who tested positive from Monday 16 August, unless they too test positive for COVID.

Current self-isolation guidelines will remain in place for those who have only received one COVID jab, or who are yet to receive their first dose.

Watch: Crowds dance at Hyde Park ahead of Freedom Day. 

Nightclubs reopen

It's been 18 months since we have been able to throw some shapes on the dancefloor in a nightclub, but from today clubs can re-open. 

The move prompted many nightclubs to throw open their doors at midnight to celebrate the return of clubbers in what has been a difficult year for the industry. 

With social distancing rules no longer in place, nightclub goers will not have to wear face masks inside and will be able to head to the bar to get the drinks in. 

No more scanning QR codes

Nightclubs, along with other hospitality businesses, will not ask customers to scan a QR code on entry as the legal requirement to do so also ends today.

However, the government is urging large venues, clubs, restaurants and pubs to request to see proof of immunity against infection upon entry.

This would be in the form of an NHS pass, or a so-called vaccine passport, which would provide proof of a negative test, natural immunity due to a recent infection, or vaccination.

But as this will not be a legal requirement, many venues have ruled out using them. 

Big weddings are back

Today also marks a major shift for large scale events such as weddings, with the guest limit removed meaning there are no legal restrictions on the number of people that can attend a wedding, civil partnership, reception or celebration.

The change will also impact what guests can and can't do during the celebration with legal requirements for social distancing no longer in force, which means you'll no longer need to stay two metres apart from people you do not live with.

COVID-secure rules, including table service requirements and restrictions on singing and dancing, also no longer apply, so weddings can proceed as they did pre-pandemic. 

There are also no longer any restrictions on the number of mourners at funerals.

You can now attend a big festival or sporting event

Large scale events, such as festivals or sporting events, no longer require certification to go ahead, although organisers are being encouraged to use vaccine passports to ascertain who has been double-jabbed.

Limits have also been lifted on businesses, meaning theatres and cinemas can return to normal capacities.

Festivals can go ahead after changes to the number restrictions on events. (Getty Images)
Festivals can go ahead after changes to the number restrictions on events. (Getty Images)

Work from home guidance ends

It could be time to step away from your loungewear as the government has put an end to advice to work from home.

This means individual companies will now set out their own rules for returning to the office or keeping flexible working in place.

A mass influx of people heading back into the workplace isn't expected immediately however, as the PM has recommended that those working from home should start heading back to the office "gradually".

"We don’t expect that the country will return to their desks as one from Monday," Mr Johnson said when setting out the rules to move into stage four of the roadmap.

Read more: Surprising heatwave hacks to keep you cool

Holidays... it's complicated

While many restrictions are being lifted from today, travelling abroad looks set to remain uncertain, as the traffic light system will not change from today.

However, there are some changes in quarantine rules on return. 

The government is removing the guidance that advises people not to visit amber list countries, meaning travel for leisure, business and to see family is back on the cards.

Holidaymakers who are fully vaccinated against the virus will be able to travel to amber list countries without having to isolate when they return to England from today.

But those arriving from amber countries who are not double-jabbed will still have to legally quarantine at home.

All under-18s are also now being made exempt from quarantine rules when visiting the same areas.

An exception is travellers returning to England from France who will still have to isolate when they get back even if they are fully vaccinated. 

This means anyone who has been in France in the last 10 days will need to self-isolate as well as taking a test after two and eight days, regardless of their vaccination status.

Care home visits make a welcome return

‘Freedom Day’ brings an end to restrictions on visitors for care home residents in England. There will not be a limit on the number of ‘named visitors’ a resident can receive.

There will also no longer be a national limit on how many can visit in a single day.

But friends and relatives visiting care home residents will still need to wear protective equipment and will be advised to minimise physical contact beyond 19 July.

When is 'Freedom Day' in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Scotland

While Scotland is dropping to the lowest level of its five-tier system of coronavirus measures from today, this will still include some limits on social contact and certain rules will also remain in place.

In the shift to Level 0, social distancing will reduce to one metre inside public places and outdoors.

Additionally, informal social gatherings of up to 15 people from 15 households will be permitted outdoors without physical distancing. 

Gatherings of up to 10 people from four households will be permitted in all indoor public settings with one metre physical distancing.

The 11pm closure time for pubs operating indoors will also be moved back to midnight, and customers will no longer be required to pre-book a two-hour slot to go to a pub or restaurant ,but will still be required to provide contact details to assist Test & Protect.

Up to 200 people will now also be able to gather at weddings and funerals.

While many rules are being eased in Scotland, face coverings in spaces such as shops and on public transport will remain mandatory for the time being, and according to Nicola Sturgeon are set to be so "for some time to come".

Wales

Wales shifted to alert level 1 on 17 July, which has further relaxed the rules on social contact.

While the rules for wearing face masks remain the same and they must be worn in all indoor public places, you can now meet with five other people from different households in your private home. 

You can also meet with five other people in indoor regulated settings, such as cafes, restaurants and pubs.

Organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 people seated and up to 200 standing.

Ice rinks are also able to reopen, but nightclubs and adult entertainment venues remain shut for the time being. 

The Welsh government has said that if the public health situation allows, it will then move to a newly created alert level 0 on 7 August.

This would mean that nightclubs can reopen and people can hold parties again. 

It would also mean all premises would be able to open and most – but not all – restrictions would be removed and replaced with an ongoing requirement for all organisations and businesses to carry out COVID risk assessments. 

There would be no legal limit on the number of people who can meet others indoors, including in private homes.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is planning to relax some of its COVID restrictions from Monday 26 July, although this is subject to a review on 22 July. 

If the move goes ahead it will mean up to 10 people from no more than three households will be allowed to meet in a private dwelling and stay overnight. 

Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total.

If a single household has 10 members, the maximum is increased to 15 from no more than three households.

Up to 15 people from any number of households are also expected to be allowed to meet in a private garden.

Other relaxations are likely to include reducing the legal requirement for social distancing to a minimum of one metre indoors and removing social distancing for all outdoor activities and public transport.

Though the rules around face coverings once restrictions ease have not yet been confirmed, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said the country should "move eventually" to making the wearing of face coverings voluntary rather than a legal requirement.

Watch: Has the pandemic changed weddings forever?

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