| 20.8°C Belfast

Johnson reveals major Covid-19 relaxations to pave the way for offices, theatres and sports stadiums to reopen in England

Boris Johnson has said he will broadly lift the work-from-home guidance and set out major relaxations of the lockdown to pave the way for theatres and sports stadiums to reopen.

The UK Prime Minister said on Friday that it will be up to employers to discuss with workers whether it is safe to return from August 1, as he detailed new measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

From that date, he said, most remaining leisure centres will reopen and indoor performances with live audiences can resume, with trials beginning for sports stadiums "with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn".

Mr Johnson also immediately scrapped the advice to avoid public transport in England and detailed plans to extinguish local outbreaks of coronavirus to avoid another national shutdown.

"It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas," he added.

But the relaxation of the strict rules will bring the nation into a new normal, with mask-wearing and social distancing remaining essential parts of life.

The PM's easing of the work-from-home guidance potentially pits him against his chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who earlier said there is "absolutely no reason" to change the advice.

But the PM told his Downing Street press conference: "It is not for government to decide how employers should run their companies and whether they want their workforces in the office or not - that is for companies."

From next month, wedding receptions for up to 30 people can resume, and bowling, skating rinks, casinos and beauticians can reopen as long as they have measures in place to reduce Covid-19 transmission.

Pilots to reopen sports stadiums will include the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield from July 31 and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival from August 1.

Nightclubs and soft play areas, however, will have to remain closed and Mr Johnson said that the Government will try to allow more close contact between loved ones "when we can".

In an attempt to prevent another nationwide shutdown, Mr Johnson said local authorities in England will have new powers from Saturday to close specific premises, shut outdoor spaces and cancel events.

He also set out his plans to prepare the NHS for a potential second spike in Covid-19 cases coinciding with the flu season this winter, saying the nation must be "hoping for the best, but planning for the worst".

PA