Covid: Nightclubs reopen and masks no longer compulsory in 'step four'

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  • Watch the report from ITV Meridian's Rachel Hepworth

People across the South are adjusting, as the most of the restrictions in place since the pandemic began 16 months ago, lifted on Monday (19/07).

'Stage four' in the government's roadmap out of lockdown, means masks are no longer compulsory, social-distancing is gone and there are no limits on how many people can meet up with.

Businesses, like nightclubs, who haven't been open since March 2020, are also now able to welcome back revellers.

However, supermarkets, shops and restaurants are advising people to continue to wear face coverings, as half a million people are isolating after being contacted by NHS test and trace. 

Lockdown rules in England: What's changing from July 19

What has happened to social distancing and the rule of six?

The 'one metre plus' rule has been scrapped entirely, as of July 19 in England. However, some guidance to maintain social distancing in certain situations will remain in place of the legal restrictions.

Social distancing guidance will continue if someone is Covid positive and self-isolating, or in airports, or other ports of entry, to avoid travellers arriving from amber or red-list countries mixing with those from green list areas.

Limits on social contact in England have disappeared, meaning the end of the rule of six indoors and the limit of 30 people for outdoor gatherings.

Do I still need to wear a face mask?

There is now no legal requirements to wear face coverings - but guidance still encourages using masks in some settings, including hospitals, healthcare settings and in crowded enclosed public spaces.

Has the working from home guidance changed?

The guidance on working from home has gone. It's ultimately down to employers to decide whether to keep staff at home or in the office, but the government say employers are able to plan the return of staff to the workplace.

What about weddings and funerals?

The current limits on numbers of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events has ended.

What's happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The changes to Covid rules announced by Boris Johnson, only impact England and will not change regulations in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

The Welsh Government “would like to move together” with other parts of the UK in lifting coronavirus restrictions but will only do so if it is “right for Wales”, health minister Eluned Morgan said on Monday 5 July.

As of July 19, restrictions in Scotland have eased, with all areas of the country moving to level 0. The government is aiming to lift all major restrictions in Scotland by August 9.

In Northern Ireland, some significant restrictions have already been eased including allowing the resumption of live music and the lifting of caps on organised outdoor gatherings.

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WATCH: What does 'step four' mean for you?

Hundreds of people joined in the countdown to 'freedom' at the Astoria nightclub in Portsmouth.

Revellers also filled the dance floor at Tokyo Tea rooms in Canterbury, which has been operating as a bar as a way of staying afloat.

Everyone celebrated the ending of the majority of Covid restrictions with a balloon and confetti drop at the club when the clock struck midnight.

Robert Butler, General Manager says it was great to see "so many happy faces".

  • Robert Butler, General Manager:

It comes as the Prime Minister confirmed that Covid vaccine passports will be required from the end of September to attend nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.

Michael Kill, Night Time Industries Association says he's "extremely proud" of the way the nightclub industry has handled the lockdown restrictions.

He says: "I'm impressed due to the short notice and the very loose way the government has approached this and sort of put it in our hands."

  • Michael Kill, Night Time Industries Association:

The Alehouse in Reading decided not to re-open at all during lockdown, meaning the ending of restrictions on Monday was a big moment.

Meanwhile, at the Bell Inn in Bournemouth, the Landlord is pleased he can now focus on being a host again, rather than enforcing rules. 

Adam Sealy says he likes that he doesn't have to police people anymore and that groups of more than six can now sit inside.

  • Adam Sealy, Pub Landlord:

While it's a big change for those working in the night time economy, for shoppers across the South East, there are few signs that any of the rules have relaxed.

The Lanes in Brighton, Pentagon shopping centre in Chatham and West Quay shopping centre in Southampton are among those in the retail industry recommending face masks are still worn.

Laura Read, Centre Manager, says staff are reminding shoppers to continue to socially-distance because they are still in an enclosed are with people they don't know.

She says: "We still have hand sanitiser stations available, we still have reminders of people to be considerate of others and we are still in line with the government guidance recommending face masks are worn."

  • Laura Read, Centre Manager, West Quay:

An industry that's slightly cautious about the relaxation of the rules and rise in Covid cases is the entertainment business.

People will still be required to socially distance and wear masks at the Theatre Royal in Winchester.

Deryck Newland, Theatre owner says he felt that there was a "giant leap" from step three to step four.

He says: "We will be cautious and won't be opening up to full capacity audiences until the very end of August."    

  • Deryck Newland, Theatre owner: