BORIS Johnson hailed the “biggest step” on the road to Covid freedom last night as indoor drinking and dining — and overnight romps — got the OK.
The PM confirmed a major easing of lockdown from next Monday.
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People in England will be able to eat out, drink inside pubs and go to the cinema, while hotels and B&Bs can reopen.
Hugs will be allowed as well as mixing indoors and staying overnight with no social distancing — ending the casual sex ban.
It follows a downgrading of the Covid threat.
Boris Johnson has urged everyone to take personal responsibility for their Covid safety.
The PM said the time has finally come for us to choose what risks to take when getting close to others as we learn to live with coronavirus for ever.
Mr Johnson said that instead of government edicts people can decide if they want to remain two metres from pals, meaning they can once again hug and shake hands — or get steamy.
THREAT LEVEL DOWNGRADED
The lockdown lift came as latest data showed no deaths in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland on Sunday.
The official Covid threat level was downgraded from four to three — meaning the virus is still in circulation but is at bay.
Confirming the easing of restrictions, the PM declared we are on course for a June 21 Independence Day, when the remaining restrictions should be lifted.
From next week everyone will be able to drink in a pub, eat in a restaurant, travel within Britain, mix indoors and stay overnight with no social distancing.
It means an end to the casual sex ban slapped on Covid-ravaged Britain.
Because the risk from the virus has plummeted, Mr Johnson said it was time to move away from strict rules governing what we can and cannot do.
He said instead people must choose the level of risk they are prepared to take by mixing and getting close.
Mr Johnson told a No 10 press conference that all the data supported the latest easing of restrictions, which he said amounted to “a considerable step on the road to normality”.
He added: “And today we’re taking a step toward that moment when we learn to live responsibly with Covid, when we cease eventually to rely on detailed government edicts and make our own decisions based on the best scientific advice about how best to protect our families and those around us.”
His spokesman later added: “Because of the success of the vaccine rollout and the public abiding by the rules, we are at the point where everyone can use their own personal judgment.”
It means love-starved couples and singletons will finally be allowed to mix indoors with people they do not live with and get close to them.
People longing for embraces will be allowed to hug and kiss once again, allowing relationships to blossom.
Lonely couples who live in separate households will be legally allowed to sleep under the same roof again as domestic overnight stays are approved.
Previously, only those who lived alone were allowed to form a bubble with their partner.
Anyone else was forced to meet their loved ones outside only, and were meant to stay apart.
But Mr Johnson had a warning for all those thinking of rushing out to dish out the hugs.
He said: “This doesn’t mean that we can suddenly throw caution to the wind. We all know that close contacts such as hugging is a direct way of transmitting this disease.
“So I urge you to think about the vulnerability of your loved ones.
“Whatever you decide, I must ask you to continue to follow social distancing when not with friends and family, including in workplaces, shops, pubs, restaurants and other settings.”
Mr Johnson also said cinemas and theatres will be allowed to reopen from next week.
And public events, including gigs, could start happening again, although they would have a capacity limit of 1,000, or 50 per cent — whichever is the smaller number.
Secondary school pupils will no longer have to wear masks while at their desks and in communal spaces like corridors.
However, teachers and adult visitors will still be expected to cover up where social distancing is not possible.
Despite Mr Johnson’s plea for Brits to continue social distancing at work and in other settings, he said he was hopeful that those rules can become voluntary by the end of next month.
‘SURVIVAL OF PUBS’
He vowed to give an update on social distancing in the wider workplace and hospitality industry by the end of May.
That delighted pub bosses and MPs who say hospitality cannot survive while social distancing remains and urged the PM to ditch it all together.
According to the real estate adviser Altus Group, 99,045 indoor hospitality premises in England will be able to open their doors from next Monday.
But the UK Hospitality group warned it still may not be economically viable for many of them to reopen without an end to social distancing rules.
Boss Kate Nichols said: “We know a third couldn’t make it work to reopen last summer and that businesses which do open will not be able to break even with the current social distancing restrictions in place.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We know Brits cannot wait to get back inside a warm pub.
“However, inside opening with restrictions is still not enough to secure the survival of pubs.
“We need them to be fully reopened without any restrictions at all from June 21 to survive and trade viably.”
Nik Antona, national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale, said “Whilst this next step is very welcome, we aren’t out of the woods yet.
“Distancing and table-service only restrictions will still mean many pubs can’t operate at full capacity with many continuing to struggle to make ends meet as a result.”
Pub chiefs were backed last night by Tory MP Mark Harper, chairman of the influential Covid Recovery Group.
He said: “Getting rid of social distancing is crucial to the very survival of many sectors of our economy, such as hospitality, that simply cannot make any money and pay wages with social distancing in place, as well as to normal life.
“I also welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has made it clear that we will all have to learn to live with the virus, stop relying on Government edicts and make our own decisions about balancing risks in living our lives.”