THE lifting of restrictions is continuing to split the public ahead of 'Freedom Day' next week.

And a leading voice representing local businesses has criticised "contradicting communication from the government" ahead of July 19.

England’s coronavirus regulations are set to be torn up next Monday, including with the rule of six gone, no legal requirement to wear face coverings, remaining businesses still closed including nightclubs set to reopen, and the government no longer instructing people to work from home.

But pressure is building from leading scientists, urging for rethink as cases continue to rise. Graham Medley, who chairs the SPI-M modelling group that advises government, has warned against mask-wearing being voluntary even in crowded spaces.

Dr Susan Hopkins, a key figure at Public Health England, has said people should continue to work from home for the next four to six weeks, and the World Health Organisation has told the UK "it's too early for massive relaxation".

Sharon Smith, chief executive of The Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce said: “Businesses will be breathing a sigh of relief after the confirmation of continuing on with Step 4.

“There are however a few areas of concern with confusing and at times contradicting communication from the government.

"The advice to return to work is met with a “gradual” approach, however this has been left unexplained how gradual this should be.

"The government have also advised people wear facemasks in shops and busy settings however have left it up to businesses to enforce this, which could create problems and confusion with staff.

“Businesses have invested a lot of time and precious resources on ensuring their premises are Covid-secure, if they are now expected to remove these precautions then this may present difficulties if these are needed in the near future.

"Clearer and concise directives from the government is needed in certain areas, the current laissez faire approach is not providing businesses with the confidence they need to fully rebuild after a turbulent 14 months.”

Nick Gjoli, landlord at the Eagle Vaults, said: "We will be keeping the masks, and signing in on the app.

"We will carry on with that because we have lots of people who have contracted Covid that we know about. I don't think it is safe yet to lift restrictions. We will have house rules that people will need to follow to be served.

"Last thing we want is one of our staff to get Covid, and we have to shut."

Asked if it was all too early, Worcester MP Robin Walker said: "The key thing is to listen to experts like Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance.

"The link between cases and hospitalisations does seem to be firmly broken and the reason for that is the success of the vaccination programme.

"With so many people having had a second vaccination, particularly in vulnerable groups, I think the balance has shifted.

"I think it is unlikely (there will be another lockdown). I don't think this is the end of the pandemic, the end of Covid, therefore people still need to take sensible precautions."

The MP added that from speaking to and written correspondents from constituents, the majority were in favour of the government's approach.

Mid Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston said: "Due to the success of the vaccination programme, the Prime Minister has confirmed that we will be able to ease Covid restrictions.

"As he said in his speech, we are however now seeing that there will never be a clear date or a good time for easing restrictions. As we have relaxed regulations, we’ve seen cases rise.

"Deaths and hospitalisations are inevitably rising, but it’s good news that it’s nowhere near the levels of last winter due to the vaccine programme.

"With schools breaking up for summer, and with the hot weather hopefully hindering the spread of the virus, we have decided that this is the right time to relax lockdown.

"That does not mean that we can act without caution. It’s important that everyone takes steps to help make sure that even without restrictions, we can keep the virus from overwhelming our health service.

"We know that the vaccine has been vital in getting to this point and so getting your jab is one way to help."

Readers were split on their thoughts on 'Freedom Day' going ahead.

Rich Martin said: "We need to learn to live with this now.

"Cases may be rising, but deaths and hospitalisation aren’t - at least not amongst the vaccinated."

But Miriam Umney said: "Both the Netherlands and Israel are reimposing restrictions in the light of rising cases of the more transmissible Delta variant, including rising hospitalisations and deaths.

"The vaccines are less effective against the Delta variant and no vaccine has ever been 100 per cent."