Government to resume easing of lockdown restrictions in England from Saturday
From Saturday, further lockdown restrictions will be eased in England to allow small wedding receptions and live indoor performances to resume with socially distanced audiences.
Bowling alleys, casinos and soft play centres are also among the businesses able to reopen their doors from Saturday, while close contact beauty treatments can also resume under strict safety procedures.
Pilot schemes for allowing spectators to return to sporting events will also resume, as will piloting at indoor conference venues ahead of the planned return of business events scheduled for October 1.
Nightclubs and discos are among the venues that must continue to be closed for the time being.
The easing of restrictions had originally been set for August 1 but was pushed back after an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across England.
However, figures from the Office for National Statistics unveiled last week suggested that the rise in cases may be levelling out.
The new easing of restrictions will not apply to areas where local lockdown measures have been introduced.
Meanwhile, the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to exercise power over when restrictions are eased there.
When announcing the changes, prime minister Boris Johnson said that it will “allow more people to return to work” and enable the public to “get back to more of the things they have missed”, but reiterated his earlier warning that the government “will not hesitate to put on the brakes” or “continue to implement local measures” if it is deemed necessary.
Alongside the new lifting of restrictions, the government has brought in greater punitive measures for people who fail to abide by rules over mandatory face coverings on public transport, in shops and in museums.
Any non-exempt individuals who do not wear a face covering where obliged are liable to a £100 fine, which is reduced to £50 if paid with a 14-day timeframe.
However, the penalty will now be doubled each time for repeat offenders, up to a maximum amount of £3,200.
Johnson explained: "Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus, but we must remain focused and we cannot be complacent.
"That is why we are strengthening the enforcement powers available to use against those who repeatedly flout the rules."
There will also be an increased penalty on those participating in illegal gatherings such as raves and parties, which could see fines of up to £10,000 handed out to perpetrators.
Home secretary Priti Patel echoed Johnson’s words, saying that they would not allow “a small minority of senseless individuals” compromise the nation’s progress in getting infection rates down.
She said: "These measures send a clear message - if you don't cooperate with the police and if you put our health at risk, action will follow.”