4 key questions about COVID rules Boris Johnson has yet to answer

·Freelance news writer, Yahoo UK
·5-min read

Watch: PM outlines five-point COVID plan

Boris Johnson has set out how people should "learn to live" with coronavirus if and when England's lockdown ends as planned on 19 July.

The prime minister, speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Monday evening, announced the end of social distancing, scrapping of mandatory face mask use, a planned return to workplaces and the reopening of nightclubs.

Johnson asked: "If we can't reopen our society in the next few weeks... we must ask ourselves when will we be able to return to normal?"

However, while the PM confirmed some aspects of what post-lockdown life will look like, there were still a number of things missing from his speech.

Here, Yahoo News UK takes you through four key questions still to be answered by the government.

1. When do double-jabbed people have to stop isolating?

There was no mention from Johnson about when the government plans to stop making people who have received both vaccine doses – and therefore have maximum protection against the disease – isolate for 10 days after coming into contact with someone who tests positive for the virus.

Johnson only said what we already knew: "We're looking to move to a different regime for fully-vaccinated contacts of those testing positive."

Boris Johnson at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (PA)
Boris Johnson at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (PA)

This comes after ex-health secretary Matt Hancock said last month that the government "will" scrap the isolation period for double-jabbed people.

It has been reported they will instead be offered the chance to take a test every morning for a week.

A pilot, said to involve 40,000 people, is ongoing but it is thought it will only go ahead once Prof Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, has approved it.

As of Sunday, the latest date for which figures are available, 33,726,362 people – 64% of the adult population – had received both doses.

2. When can double-jabbed people go on holiday and not isolate?

Johnson did not say when double-vaccinated people can go on holiday to "amber list" destinations and not have to isolate upon their return to England.

The PM only said: "We will maintain our tough border controls, including the red list, and, recognising the protection afforded by two doses of vaccine, we will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully-vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an amber country."

He promised a further update later this week, but for now, the lack of a firm announcement means any hopes for a summer holiday abroad remain in the balance.

Currently, there are 27 destinations on England's "green list", where infection rates are deemed low enough to not require isolation upon return. However, travel to a number of these places, for example New Zealand, is unviable due to strict border measures there. Antarctica is also on the list.

However, there are dozens more countries on the "amber list", from which travellers must isolate for 10 days upon return, as well as book two tests. The government currently advises only essential travel to amber countries.

3. What is an 'acceptable' number of hospital admissions and deaths?

Prof Whitty has previously said ministers will need to set out a "level of risk that we think it is appropriate to tolerate" when restrictions end.

On Sunday, Labour also called for the government to "explain what level of mortality" it "considers acceptable" as cases rise exponentially.

Johnson himself acknowledged on Monday that the lifting of restrictions will see cases rise – and with that hospital admissions and deaths.

The PM said there could be 50,000 new cases detected daily, giving an idea of the infection levels he is comfortable with as the vaccine rollout continues.

However, he did not set out the precise numbers of hospitalisations and deaths which he would find "acceptable" in the post-lockdown world, only saying "we will continue to look at all the data as we progress".

Boris Johnson and Prof Chris Whitty at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (PA)
Boris Johnson and Prof Chris Whitty at Monday's Downing Street press conference. (PA)

Driven by the 60% more transmissible Delta variant, infections are rapidly accelerating. In the seven days to Monday, there had been 178,128 new cases in the UK, up 53% on the previous week.

Hospital admissions, while nowhere near the levels seen in the first and second waves, are also rising. In the seven days to 29 June, the latest date for which figures are available, 1,953 people were admitted: a 24% increase on the previous week.

Deaths currently remain extremely low when compared to the first and second waves. There were 128 deaths reported in the week up to Monday, up 4.9% from the previous week.

4. What will individual transport authorities say about face masks?

Johnson, as mentioned above, confirmed the government will remove the "legal obligation" to wear a face covering.

However, as pointed out by Sky News, individual transport authorities could still decide to make face masks a condition of travel.

The office for London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is responsible for Transport for London, has said face masks give people confidence in the safety of public transport, and that it's an issue "we will continue to look at closely".

Read more:
Chris Whitty: 3 situations where I will carry on wearing a face mask
Boris Johnson does not rule out return of COVID restrictions as he sets out plans for 'freedom day'

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is opposed to the ending of mandatory face masks as a national policy, but admitted he could not make them compulsory on his transport network, saying: “If the government comes up with a national ruling, I just don’t see how we would be able to enforce it at our level."

Individual shops, meanwhile, could still choose to make face masks a condition of entry.

So, even after Johnson's announcement, there is enough to suggest this will be an issue – or row? – that doesn't go away.

Watch: What you need to know about COVID-19 variants