Scientists and politicians struck a cautious note and told the public to still be mindful of spreading the disease when restrictions are removed on July 19, as the number of Delta cases continues to soar.
The face mask mandate will be scrapped alongside social distancing limits and the requirement to work from home, but guidance will still encourage people to stick to some pandemic behaviours like wearing masks in indoor spaces.
Meanwhile, people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will receive updated guidance on how to keep themselves safe and nightclubs and other venues will be encouraged to make use of a Covid pass system showing people are either vaccinated or have tested negative before they are admitted.
Boris Johnson told a Number 10 press conference that “it is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution.
“And I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough: this pandemic is not over,” he added
“This disease, coronavirus, continues to carry risks for you and your family. We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday July 19 to life as it was before Covid.
“We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport.”
The warnings come as the Delta variant continues to spread across the UK. As many as 100,000 daily cases are expected later in the summer, and more than 34,000 new lab-confirmed cases were reported on the Government dashboard on Monday and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said that going slowly through the next step was “essential” to reduce the impact of the “exit wave.”
“There is extremely wide agreement that whenever we go through the next step, there is going to be what’s called an exit wave – there will be a wave associated with that,” he told a Downing Street press conference.
“And that the slower we take it, the fewer people will have Covid, the smaller the peak will be, and the smaller the number of people who go into hospital and die.”
The upcoming school holidays will give a “natural firebreak” in the coming days according to Mr Johnson who said that delaying the next step on the roadmap to the autumn would mean “reopening as the weather gets colder and as the virus acquires a greater natural advantage and when schools are back.”
The Prime Minister’s sense of caution was echoed by the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who called on the public to act “with caution and with personal responsibility”.
He told the House of Commons that “coronavirus is not going away” but added: “To those who say ‘why take this step now’ I say ‘if not now, when?’
“There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus.”