The easing of lockdown restrictions means we’re gradually getting more freedom to have a sense of normality return to our lives.
On 23 June, Prime minister Boris Johnson announced new rules which include the reopening of pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, museums, art galleries and cinemas from 4 July.
The 2m social distancing rule will also be relaxed from the same date and instead a "1m plus" distance is recommended along with staying side by side rather than face to face and wearing face coverings.
He also shared the recommendations for businesses to follow in order to keep staff and customers safe.
These include avoiding face to face seating, reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, providing hand sanitiser, changing shift patterns and encouraging the use of face coverings. Hospitality indoors will be limited to table service only.
Larger bubbles of people are also now allowed to meet, with no limit on how many people can gather indoors, as long as they are members of just two households. Additionally, from 6 July those shielding in England will be allowed to meet other people outdoors in groups of up to six, and from 1 August they will no longer be asked to shield.
Ahead we’ve compiled the necessary and helpful items to see you through your next meet-up with friends and family that will both keep you safe and minimise the risk of transmission of germs.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Since 15 June it has been mandatory to wear face masks when using public transport and in hospitals in England and on public transport in Scotland from 22 June. Failure to follow these rules can result in people being refused entry and a £100 fine in England.
These rules apply to everyone, except those under the age of 11 and people with disabilities or breathing problems, or anyone travelling with someone who lip-reads, while in Scotland those under five and those with certain illnesses will be exempt.
Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, told The Independent: “Many infections are spread by droplets, which are relatively large when they first come out as a cough or a sneeze but become much smaller as they travel through the air. The job of a cloth face covering isn’t to protect the wearer but to block the source of infection (what’s known as ‘source control’).
“The main benefit is most of your germs will be caught in it, making you less of an infection risk to others. My mask protects you; yours protects me,” she adds.
Uber has also enforced a mask-wearing rule for both riders and drivers.
In our face mask buying guide, we’ve covered the different types of mask, what to consider before you buy one and how to wear and wash one.
Since the beginning of lockdown, many businesses have pivoted their production to manufacturing face masks, along with individuals creating their own via retailers such as Etsy. Other larger retailers who have launched cloth face masks include Mango, Asos and Aldi, along with independent brands including Aeibe, Newt, Just Hype, Florence Bridge, Plumo and Wawa Clothing. Prices range from a couple of pounds for basic styles up to £50 for higher-end masks from luxury labels. Keep in mind that due to the pandemic, deliveries may be delayed.
Alice Cox, a freelance theatre prop maker and set designer, started creating bespoke face masks from old designer fabrics from her spare room in Kennington, London.
She has designed them with a pocket large enough to fit a filter and non-elastic band that will minimise irritation around your ears. To place an order, email your choice of colour and material to firstname.lastname@example.org. One mask will cost you £10, unless you want the liberty-printed style, which is £15. You can find a list of other retailers to shop from in our guide on where to buy a face mask in the UK.
However, covering your mouth can cause problems for deaf people and those who have hearing problems and communicate through lip-reading. This has a detrimental effect on the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Roger Wicks, director of campaigns and policy at London-based charity, Action on Hearing Loss, told The Independent: “Many people who are deaf or have hearing loss rely heavily on visual cues for effective communication including facial expressions and lip-reading."
Transparent face masks are available to help prevent this issue, though they are not yet as widely-accessible as other face coverings. Etsy has many options for different styles of transparent face masks, in varying designs, patterns and colours.
For sweet prints such as little foxes or bouquets of flowers, this lip-reading clear smile mask (Etsy, 20.95) allows you to choose from vibrant, playful patterns. It has a soft vinyl window and double-layered 100 per cent cotton lining.
You can choose from two straps, elastic or tie loops, depending on your preference.
Health experts have stated that the virus is spread through droplets transmitted into the air from coughing and sneezing, which people nearby can take in through their nose, mouth or eyes. However, if the droplets land on surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others, it can spread further.
If you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water, then hand sanitiser is the next best thing, as long as it contains at least 60 per cent alcohol, which will kill microorganisms on the skin.
For your next outing, have one stored safely away in your handbag or pocket so you can easily re-apply throughout the day.
In our guide to buying hand sanitiser online, sustainable beauty brand Beauty Kitchen has created its own vegan hand sanitiser spray, from 50ml (Beauty Kitchen, from £10) refillable form, so you can fight the germs and reduce your single-use plastic consumption simultaneously.
It has three options to shop from; two 50ml refillable sprays, a 500ml refill bottle and starter pack of one 50ml spray and a 500ml refill bottle.
It’s also worth having a pack of antibacterial wipes on hand at all times like this plastic-free antibacterial apple and apricot surface wipes (Wilko, 50p).
You can use them to wipe down cutlery, tableware and surfaces to keep the spread of germs to a minimum.
What you need for a picnic
Dining alfresco has become much more common now that meeting up outdoors and in parks, is allowed, as long as you observe the social distancing rules.
Instead of hastily packing cocktail sausages and a cheap six-pack of beers into a plastic bag, we suggest taking an eco-friendly approach to your picnic, which is not only better for the envrionment, but also helps reduce the spread of germs.
In our round-up of the best picnic blankets, the VonShef herringbone picnic blanket (VonShef, £26.99) came out on top. Comfortably fitting four people (if they're from the same household), it's made from a hard-wearing fleece polyester.
Featuring a waterproof lining, there's no chance of getting soggy if the ground is a little wet. And most importantly, our tester praised how easy it is to roll up and secure using the leather-look carry straps.
You’ll also want something practical to take your picnic essentials from A to B. Try the Hydro flask unbound series cooler pack 15 coolbox (Alpine Trek, £197.95) which topped our test of the best cool bags.
Thanks to the smart insulation, it will keep your food and drink cool for up to two days, so you won’t have to worry about your picnic perishables going bad or your bottle of white wine getting warm in direct sunlight. The added bonus of the watertight zip means you can transport ice from your freezer to the park, leak-free, making it ideal for picnicking.
And our tester was pleasantly surprised at how compact the bag was considering its 15l capacity, and the number of pockets available was an added bonus – perfect any family or large household outing.
Tableware and glassware
Now that the limit on the amount of people gathering inside have been removed – as long as it's just two households – you can enjoy eating at other people's houses – and not just in their gardens. But whether that's dinner inside or a bbq outside (weather permitting, that is), you should consider taking your own cutlery, so as not to share it and potentially spread germs. It's also a good idea to do the same for picnics, too.
This Joseph Joseph goeat compact portable stainless steel cutlery set (John Lewis and Partners, £14) means you don't have to put up with flimsy, often single-use plastic cutlery or wooden ones.
Made of stainless steel, the set includes a knife with a magnetic handle, fork and spoon and comes in a silicone case to help keep them clean before and after use. They’re easy to wipe clean once you’re done eating using antibacterial wipes too and you can pop in your bag after eating.
You can also take your own plates to other people's houses too fo the same reasons, while at picnics everyone should bring their own food, drinks and crockery and also not share any of it either. Serve up your picnic food on these multicolour simply eco large plates (Meri Meri, £8) designed in sorbet, scallop-shaped pastel shades and made from wood fiber, bamboo and sugarcane.
They’re stylish but kind to the environment, and will be a set you can reuse over and over, so you’ve no excuse for using wasteful paper plates.
If you’re planning on bringing a bottle of bubbly, cut down on you single-use plastics by ditching the plastic cup containers. Or you can even keep one on you for any pub visits instead of using single-use pint glasses.
Instead opt for a more robust, reusable alternative such as these leon bamboo picnic tumbler set of 4 (John Lewis and Partners, £15).
Bold, bright and beautiful, you can use them time and time again for wine, processo, Pimm’s and soft drinks.
When it comes to drinking, plastic straws are wasteful but thanks to the many reusable options now available, making the switch to more sustainable options isn’t a problem.
We love these Lakeland joie reusable stainless steel drinking straws (Lakeland, £6.99).
Eco-friendly products can sometimes fall flat in the aesthetic department, but these are chic enough to earn a place in our kitchen drawer.
The benefit of steel is that it can’t be chewed by kids (or adults…guilty) or snap in the middle, meaning this pack of six should last you years. They’re angled, earning design and practical points, and the set comes with a silicone holder for keeping them together and a flexible, tapered cleaning brush that effectively scrubs off any residue left inside. You can throw them in the dishwasher for an extra clean, too.
If your weekend plans involve a trip to you pub for a long-awaited pint, bring your own biodegradable pint glass, which not only will reduce your plastic consumption, but will also help you minimise the germs you come into contact with.
This biopac biodegradable half pint tumblers (Drink Stuff, £8.99) are available in packs of 70, so you’ll never run out either. Your friends will thank you for being organised too.
They’re made from 100 per cent compostable materials and will degrade after use, so one you’ve finished with them simply pop them on your compost heap or in your recycling bin.