The number of coronavirus cases in Britain will rise significantly from current levels, health minister Sajid Javid said today as the UK government announced an end to almost all legal Covid-19 restrictions.

“It’s important that we’re straight with the British people: cases of COVID-19 are rising and they will continue to rise significantly. We can reasonably expect that by the 19th of July, the number of daily cases will be far higher than today,” Javid told parliament.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday confirmed that all legal COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of face masks, will come to an end on July 19, paving the way for people to make their own decisions about which safety guidelines to follow.

Johnson said a final decision will be made next Monday based on the latest community infections and hospitalisations data, but effectively people will no longer be expected to work from home where possible and will no longer be legally required to wear face masks.

Addressing a virtual Downing Street press conference, Johnson acknowledged the divided views on lifting all lockdown restrictions to declare that his update does not imply that the pandemic “is over”.

But if things can’t be reopened in the next few weeks when vaccinations are offering greater protection, then “we must ask ourselves when will we be able to return to normal”.

“The alternative is to reopen in winter when the virus will have an advantage – or not at all,” Johnson said, adding that the vaccination programme has broken the link between infections and hospitalisations.

“We run the risk of either opening up at a difficult time… or putting everything off until next year,” he said.

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