More beauty treatments, small wedding receptions and live indoor performances will be able to resume in England from Saturday, as lockdown rules are eased.
Bowling alleys, casinos and soft play centres will also be able to reopen, PM Boris Johnson has announced.
It comes as the government introduces tough new measures targeting breaches of social distancing restrictions.
Fines for refusing to wear a mask could reach a maximum of £3,200 and illegal rave organisers face a £10,000 penalty.
“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,” Mr Johnson said.
“That is why we are strengthening the enforcement powers available to use against those who repeatedly flout the rules.”
The changes coincide with new quarantine measures for people coming to the UK from several countries including France and the Netherlands, which mean travellers must self-isolate for 14 days from Saturday.
The prime minister said that plans to open up more of the economy this weekend “will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed”.
But Mr Johnson reiterated a warning that the government “will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required, or to continue to implement local measures to help to control the spread of the virus”.
Under changes coming into force from 15 August:
- Indoor theatre, music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences
- Wedding receptions in the form of a sit-down meal for up to 30 guests will be permitted
- The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators will resume, commencing with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre over the weekend
- Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres will be allowed to reopen
- “Close contact” beauty services such as facials, eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments, make up application and microblading will resume
- Pilots will take place at conference venues ahead of the expected resumption of business events from 1 October at the earliest
The new guidance will not apply in areas where local lockdown measures are in place, the government said.
Lockdown restrictions were last week introduced in Preston and kept in place in 18 other areas to control outbreaks.
Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the power to set their own timings for the easing of restrictions.
The latest easing of England’s lockdown was due to take place on 1 August, however this was postponed after the ONS expressed concerns about a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive for coronavirus.
Last week, ONS figures showed this may be levelling off.
New guidance will also mean that staff offering “close contact” services, including hairdressers, will now have to wear a face mask as well as a clear visor.
The government said the move, which follows new evidence from the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) is aimed at protecting customers and staff from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing, or speaking.
It also applies to businesses that operate remotely, such as massage therapists working in people’s homes, and those learning in vocational training environments.
Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques are among venues that remain closed in law.
Tougher enforcement measures
Under current guidance, people who refuse to wear a face covering where it is required face a £100 fine, which can be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.
The new enforcement measures will see that penalty repeatedly doubled for subsequent offences, up to a maximum of £3,200.
In England, face coverings are mandatory in many indoor settings, including public transport, shops and museums, with some exemptions for children or on medical grounds.
Transport for London and British Transport Police have already made 91,501 interventions based on present face coverings guidance, the government said – preventing 4,397 from boarding, asking 3,030 to leave the network and issuing 341 penalty notices.
There will also be a clampdown on illegal gatherings of more than 30 people, which could see those responsible hit with spot fines of up to £10,000.
According to the government, forces across England and Wales have already stepped up patrols to prevent illegal gatherings in areas of concern, such as Leicester and Greater Manchester, where it said deployments have sometimes been larger than on New Year’s Eve.
Last weekend, West Midlands Police shut down 125 parties and raves – and closed a pub – taking action to stop illegal gatherings and anti-social behaviour across the region.
Further detail on the new enforcement measures is to be set out in the coming week.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would not allow progress against the virus to be undermined by “a small minority of senseless individuals”.
“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.”
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