RECAP: How Sunderland reacted to 'Freedom Day' and details of latest Downing Street press conference
Today, Monday, July 19, marks England’s ‘Freedom Day’ as further Covid restrictions across the country are lifted after more than a year.
After months of pandemic-related constraints, the country has finally reached the last step in the Government’s unlocking road map and we were there to bring you the latest from our city centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for caution as the country unlocks and led a press conference virtually this evening as he self-isolates following contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has Covid-19.
Today’s changes mean face masks are no longer mandatory in shops and on public transport, limits on gatherings have gone, the work from home guidance no longer applies and social distancing rules ended at one minute past midnight.
Nightclubs, theatres and restaurants can fully reopen, while pubs are no longer restricted to table service only.
Scroll down for a look at how the day unfolded:
Live updates on Freedom day in Sunderland, July 19
Last updated: Monday, 19 July, 2021, 11:56
- Coronavirus restrictions have been lifted across England
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged caution as lockdown comes to an end
- More than 480 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Sunderland yesterday
Coronavirus restrictions come to an end on Freedom Day
It is official: social distancing limits are largely over, with no more “rule of six” and “one metre plus” restrictions.
Groups of more than six people from multiple households will be able to hang out indoors and outdoors.
Businesses will reopen, including shuttered nightclubs who can welcome party-goers back to dance floors.
Legal limits on mourners at funerals and those celebrating weddings will also end, as will school bubbles.
Face masks are now no longer mandatory but the Government says it “expects and recommends” masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces.
Boris Johnson urges caution over lockdown ending as he is forced into isolation
Boris Johnson has appealed to people to exercise their new freedoms with caution as most mandatory lockdown restrictions in England are finally lifted.
With Covid-19 cases continuing to soar and renewed warnings about the pressure on the NHS, there was no mood of celebration in Government.
Mr Johnson is spending so-called “freedom day” self-isolating at his official country residence at Chequers after being “pinged” by NHS Test and Trace following a contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Nightclubs reopen across the country.
Party goers danced in clubs in Newcastle for the first time in more than a year.
Face coverings still a Condition of Carriage when using Tyne and Wear Metros
Face coverings must still be worn in busy indoor settings including on public transport under new Government advice which came into effect from today, Monday 19 July.
The Government says it ‘expects and recommends people to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as shops and public transport’.
Wearing a face covering throughout your journey, on stations and trains, is a Condition of Carriage when using Metro unless exempt and customers may be refused travel if they do not.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages Metro, will continue to encourage customers to wear face coverings, and explain the benefits of doing this.
This is in line with the Government advice when in public spaces with people you don’t normally encounter.
Masks still to be worn on Nexus transport across the North East
Customer Services Director at Nexus, Huw Lewis, said: “The Government has said people are expected and recommended to keep wearing face coverings when they are in busy indoor settings, including in shops and on public transport.
“We are encouraging customers to follow this advice when making journeys on local bus, ferry and Metro services.
“We have made wearing face coverings part of Metro’s conditions of carriage, unless you are exempt, and we will use that as a base to encourage people to do so in busy spaces. It has never been a legal requirement to wash hands regularly, but we’ve all been doing that and we should take the same approach to face coverings.
“The guidance is clear, face coverings should be worn when inside busy enclosed spaces with people you do not normally encounter. If you are travelling on a crowded bus or train then it makes sense to continue wearing a mask in the interests of public health.
“As we move into the next phase of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown our customers can be reassured that our public transport networks are fully covid-secure and a range of measures have kept it that way right though lockdown. Extra cleaning using anti-bacterial treatments and the use of hand sanitiser points at key stations will continue to take place.”
‘Freedom day could become chaos day over pingdemic’, Government warned
The Government is coming under pressure from businesses and unions to tackle the growing worker self-isolation crisis amid warnings that Monday’s so-called “freedom Day” in England will turn into “chaos day”.
There are fears of transport problems on Monday morning because of the number of workers being pinged by the NHS Test and Trace app, as well as warnings of shortages of goods in supermarkets and cuts in production at factories.
The CBI has called on the Government to immediately allow double-jabbed individuals not to self-isolate for 10 days rather than wait until August 16.
More than 480 new Covid cases confirmed in Sunderland ahead of 'Freedom Day'
A total of 487 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Sunderland yesterday.
On Friday, the rate of infection in Sunderland stood at 10,880 cases per 100,000 people, far higher than the England average of 8,245.
A statement from the LA7 group – which includes the leaders of Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside, Northumberland, Newcastle and Gateshead, as well as the North Tyneside and North of Tyne Mayors and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said: “We all have a part to play in making this work and keeping our communities safe.
“July 19 has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, however it is important to remember that we are still seeing a significant number of new cases every day and we need to continue to be cautious.
The statement urges everyone who can be vaccinated to get the jab: “This next phase of the Government’s response to the pandemic relies on a wall of immunity being built to protect the population, primarily through vaccinations.”
Boris Johnson urges people in England to be cautious
Fully jabbed frontline NHS staff will, in “exceptional circumstances”, be permitted to carry on working if they are “pinged”
Fully jabbed frontline NHS staff in England will, in “exceptional circumstances”, be permitted to carry on working if they are “pinged” by the Covid contact tracing app, the Government has announced.
Vaccines minister says he’s “confident” the Government is “doing the right thing” in lifting most coronavirus restrictions in England
Nadhim Zahawi said: “We have to be careful, we have to remain vigilant.
“Our border controls remain in place, our expectation and recommendation that people in crowded places continue to wear masks and take both personal and corporate responsibility, and it is great to see TfL and others doing that.
“It is a step forward, an important step forward – there is no perfect time to take this step, this is as good a time as any as (Professor) Chris Whitty has said, with the summer holidays and schools being out, which will hopefully bear down on the R number, the transition rate.
“So, I’m confident that we are doing the right thing.
“I think the vaccination programme has allowed us to take this step, to take it cautiously with this wall of protection among adults in the United Kingdom.”
What do people in Sunderland think of the restrictions being eased?
Our Echo reporter Ryan is out and about in Sunderland today along with photographer Stu to get the city’s reaction to restrictions being lifted.
“Restrictions shouldn’t be lifted really."
Sisters June Keen, 67 and Hilda Pearson, 71 from Hendon have their say on Freedom Day.
June said: “restrictions shouldn’t be lifted really, there is still a lot of people with different conditions. Hospitals are inundated again and they should have closed the airports.”
“I’m exempt but when I’m on the bus I still wear one."
Our reporter Ryan is out in Sunderland capturing the city’s reaction as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Hilda Pearson, 71 said: “I’m exempt but when I’m on the bus I still wear one. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone a pint but I think that pubs were opened too early as well.”
“It’s definitely too early"
Husband and wife Julie, 56 and Raymond Green, 63 think the restrictions have been lifted a little too early.
Raymond said: “there’s around 60,000 cases a day at the moment and they have decided to lift restrictions, it is definitely too early.”
Julie added: “We are still wearing our masks and still being cautious despite things being lifted. There is actually loads of people being sensible and wearing masks today.”
“We need to start getting things open in this country to get money flowing again"
Veteran Paul Hampton, 41 from New Herrington said: “I think it is too early with all the new variants rising but at the same time, we need to start getting things open in this country to get money flowing again.
“You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t really.”