IT IS time to unmask as the country moves towards its so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19.

Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that should step four of unlocking the country proceed in two weeks’ time almost all Covid regulations, including wearing face masks, social distancing rules and capacity limits on large events, would be removed.

He also said that all businesses, including night clubs, will be able to re-open, and events such as concerts, festivals and crowds at sports matches could resume.

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The Government would also no longer require people to work from home and there will no longer be limits on the number of people able to visit care home residents.

It will be confirmed next Monday, on Jul 12, that these lifting over the final set of Covid restrictions will go-ahead.

Mr Johnson said the expectation is that people will exercise their 'personal responsibility' and make decisions regarding Covid for themselves.

Bars, gig venues and theatres across the city are extremely excited by the glimmer of hope that venues might finally be able to welcome in customers without any Covid restrictions.

Joe Davies, who is the general manager at The Big Society, said that the team at the Cowley Road haunt are ‘extremely excited’ for the restrictions to be eased so the popular hangout can ‘finally get back to normal’.

He said: “Our jobs changed so much in the pandemic, from doing things like table service, and even small things such as showing people to their tables – as before we like to be a casual dining experience.

“These lifting of restrictions indicates a real return to normality which is really nice and very exciting.

“It will be great to have the customer contact, and finally be able to talk to people and socialise a bit more.”

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Theatre and cinema goers will also be able to attend venues without having to wear masks – and the venues will be able to operate at a full capacity, as up until now they have only been able to open if they have half of their usual capacity.

A spokesperson for the Oxford Playhouse said: "This is a huge relief to us and a lifeline for our industry, it could not have come sooner as theatres across the country have struggled to survive and retain their staff since venues closed on 16 March 2020.

"The safety of our audiences, staff and visiting companies remains our prime concern, and we will follow industry and Government guidance, to ensure people continue to feel safe and confident returning to the Playhouse.

"We are currently working through the implications of the Prime Minister’s statement for our operation and our audiences."

Gigs and other mass events, such as festivals, will also be revived once more on July 19.

Paul Williams, at The Bullingdon on Cowley Road, said: “This is good news for everybody, it’s amazing and we cannot wait to have everyone back.

“From the 19th of July we have two weeks of events going, and on Saturday the 24th we are holding a big celebration of Oxford Music, with lots of different local DJs and bands playing from 3pm to 3am.”

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The news was welcomed by Jonathan Corp, who only opened his new Café and Bar, JoJo’s on the Cowley Road, back in May, who said it would be ‘lovely to be in a proper routine’ and ‘finally see the expressions on people’s faces – rather than their masks’.

He added: “It will nice to finally be able to see our space filled and it will be great not to have to enforce rules, so the environment will become more relaxed.”

The news comes as cases continue to rise across the country.

In the last week, cases in Oxford have increased by five-fold - rising to the same level as the pandemics peak.

Almost all of the cases were detected in those between the ages of 15 and 24.

Over the weekend PCR testing facilities were suddenly brought into the city to test people between the ages of 18 and 30, regardless of whether individuals have symptoms or not.