Boris Johnson moves to ease lockdown faster in face of mass job losses
Boris Johnson is set to accelerate the speed of easing the coronavirus lockdown, after warnings of impending mass unemployment.
Ministers have drawn up plans to bring Britain back to something resembling normal life by July, in order to ensure industries benefit from summer trading.
The new plans will see the government allow planning restrictions to be eased to allow pubs and restaurants to use outside areas, Sunday trading laws scrapped, relaxed restrictions on weddings, opening of places of worship on 15 June and attempts to establish “air bridges” with other countries to allow quarantine-free travel.
Johnson also reportedly wants social distancing rules to be altered to make the mandatory distance between people one metre instead of two.
The Sunday Times reports that the need to ease lockdown has gained momentum in Downing Street, after the Prime Minister was warned on Tuesday that not opening the hospitality sector for summer would cost 3.5m jobs.
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Chancellor Rishi Sunk and business secretary Alok Sharma were at the 45-minute meeting about the economy, where they urged for the economy to be re-opened at a quicker rate.
Six cabinet ministers – dubbed as the “save summer six” – are leading the charge to open up the economy almost fully by next month.
They are Sunak, Sharma, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, transport secretary Grant Shapps, culture secretary Oliver Dowden and communities secretary Robert Jenrick.
The UK’s roadmap to easing the lockdown had 4 July as the earliest possible date to re-open the hospitality sector in a limited fashion.
When the roadmap was released, a source close to Downing Street said it would be difficult for some venues, such as pubs, to re-open in early July.
However, Johnson’s new plans appear to have made it more likely for more businesses to open from 4 July.
A cabinet minister told the Sunday Times that the government’s change in emphasis was “long overdue”.
“It’s right that the emphasis has shifted to the economic side and a return to normal life,” they said.
Iain Anderson, founder of City of London communications group Cicero, said the Square Mile was looking for the government to outline a clear economic plan for the country’s post-coronavirus recovery.
He said: “I think a lot of businesses have been really lobbying to government to open up as swiftly as possible, and then people are asking ‘what is the wider economic plan’?
“We all expect the government to map out a grand vision on what they see as the economic route out of lockdown.
“Every business I speak to is very keen on that.”
It comes as new data suggests that the country’s R rate, the rate of which the coronavirus is growing, has increased since the lockdown was eased.
A tool created by Public Health England revealed that the R rate could be now greater than one in some areas, such as the North West, which means the number of infections is growing.
The UK coronavirus death toll surpassed 40,000 on Friday, putting the country only behind the US in total number of fatalities.