The government has announced a further loosening of coronavirus restrictions in England, which come into effect from Saturday 15 August. The changes were postponed from 1 August.
The following businesses and activities can reopen in England, provided they follow Covid-19 secure guidelines:
Casinos, skating rinks and bowling alleys.
Indoor play areas, including soft play areas.
Indoor theatre, music and performance venues with socially distanced audiences. Venues will have to operate at a reduced capacity and limit ticket sales. Performers must maintain social distancing and venues need to be deep-cleaned between performances.
Tattoo studios, beauty salons, spas and hairdressers will be able to restart their remaining “close-contact” services, including facial treatments such as eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments and make-up application.
Wedding receptions will be allowed to have sit-down meals again, for up to 30 people, providing the venue adheres to Covid guidelines.
A small number of sporting events will be piloted to test the safe return of spectators. This will begin with the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield at the weekend. Government guidelines state it is still aiming to return crowds to stadiums in October.
The changes only apply to England – the devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions. Many activities, such as bowling alleys in Wales or close-contact facial treatments in Scotland, were already reopened in areas of the UK with lower coronavirus transmission rates than in England.
The new rules in England also do not apply where local lockdowns are in place, which currently includes areas in the north of England, Leicester and Luton. You can check whether your area has local restrictions on the government website.
The government says you are still NOT allowed to:
Meet indoors in groups of more than two households, even in pubs or restaurants.
Interact socially with anyone you know, even if you see them when out in a pub or restaurant or place of worship.
Hold or attend parties or celebrations where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
Meet outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is from two households or support bubbles.
Stay overnight away from home with people who are not members of your household or support bubble.
Nightclubs, dance halls and sexual entertainment venues will remain closed.
The advice, when you leave your home, is still to avoid being face-to-face with people from outside your household, to frequently wash your hands with soap and water, and to avoid crowded places.
Government advice remains that it is important to maintain social distancing from people you do not live with. Single adult households – adults who live alone or with dependent children only – can form an exclusive support bubble with one other household. You should not change or add to your support bubble once formed.
Face coverings are mandatory on public transport, in shops, museums, galleries, cinemas, places of worship and public libraries. There are some exemptions to the face covering rule, for example if you are a child under 11 or someone with a physical or mental disability that would make wearing a mask difficult.
The Covid-19 pandemic is currently unfolding in “one big wave” with no evidence that it follows seasonal variations common to influenza and other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, the World Health Organization has warned.
Epidemics of infectious diseases behave in different ways but the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed more than 50 million people is regarded as a key example of a pandemic that occurred in multiple waves, with the latter more severe than the first. It has been replicated – albeit more mildly – in subsequent flu pandemics. Until now that had been what was expected from Covid-19.
How and why multiple-wave outbreaks occur, and how subsequent waves of infection can be prevented, has become a staple of epidemiological modelling studies and pandemic preparation, which have looked at everything from social behaviour and health policy to vaccination and the buildup of community immunity, also known as herd immunity.
Is there evidence of coronavirus coming back in a second wave?
This is being watched very carefully. Without a vaccine, and with no widespread immunity to the new disease, one alarm is being sounded by the experience of Singapore, which has seen a sudden resurgence in infections despite being lauded for its early handling of the outbreak.
Although Singapore instituted a strong contact tracing system for its general population, the disease re-emerged in cramped dormitory accommodation used by thousands of foreign workers with inadequate hygiene facilities and shared canteens.
Singapore’s experience, although very specific, has demonstrated the ability of the disease to come back strongly in places where people are in close proximity and its ability to exploit any weakness in public health regimes set up to counter it.
In June 2020, Beijing suffered from a new cluster of coronavirus cases which caused authorities to re-implement restrictions that China had previously been able to lift. In the UK, the city of Leicester was unable to come out of lockdown because of the development of a new spike of coronavirus cases. Clusters also emerged in Melbourne, requiring a re-imposition of lockdown conditions.
What are experts worried about?
Conventional wisdom among scientists suggests second waves of resistant infections occur after the capacity for treatment and isolation becomes exhausted. In this case the concern is that the social and political consensus supporting lockdowns is being overtaken by public frustration and the urgent need to reopen economies.
However Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, says “‘Second wave’ isn’t a term that we would use at the current time, as the virus hasn’t gone away, it’s in our population, it has spread to 188 countries so far, and what we are seeing now is essentially localised spikes or a localised return of a large number of cases.”
The overall threat declines when susceptibility of the population to the disease falls below a certain threshold or when widespread vaccination becomes available.
In general terms the ratio of susceptible and immune individuals in a population at the end of one wave determines the potential magnitude of a subsequent wave. The worry is that with a vaccine still many months away, and the real rate of infection only being guessed at, populations worldwide remain highly vulnerable to both resurgence and subsequent waves.
Travel is permitted throughout the country, but you are advised to try to maintain social distancing as much as possible while doing so, especially in confined spaces such as a car.
International travel is subject to restrictions. You must self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive in the UK, unless you have travelled from one of the countries where there are “travel corridors”. There are currently 76 countries and territories on the list, which should be checked before you travel.
Since 1 August those considered clinically vulnerable to the coronavirus, due to a pre-existing condition such as cancer or a respiratory condition such as asthma, are no longer required to shield indoors. There are exceptions to this in local lockdown areas.
If you have symptoms of the coronavirus – which include a fever, a new persistent cough, and changes to your sense of taste and/or smell – you can book an NHS coronavirus test online.
In general, the advice remains that the more people you have interactions with, the more chance the virus has to spread. Therefore, try to limit the number of people you see.