Lockdown restrictions are “very likely” to be lifted as planned on July 19 according to the PM, as new health secretary Sajid Javid said the decision will be “irreversible”.
Speaking on a campaign visit on Monday, the prime minister said that the government and its scientific advisers are “very likely be in a position on 19 July to say that really is the terminus and we can go back to life as it was before Covid as far as possible.”
Boris Johnson had previously suggested that all lockdown restrictions could be eased in England as soon as July 5, but today said the government would be “sensible” and stick to its plan to have “a cautious but irreversible approach”.
The PM extended the fourth and final stage of its roadmap out of lockdown by four weeks from June 20 to July 19, in order to give the NHS more time to vaccinate the UK population.
At the time, Johnson promised a review of the extension after two weeks – which new health secretary Sajid Javid will deliver this evening in parliament.
Speaking while on a visit to St Thomas’s Hospital in London, longtime advocate for easing lockdown restrictions Javid said: “I want to see the restrictions lifted and life going back to normal as quickly as possible. That is my absolute priority. I want to see those restrictions lifted as soon as we can.”
“It’s going to be irreversible, there’s no going back. That’s why we want to be careful during that process,” he added.
The debate in the Commons is likely to be heated, after Labour criticised Johnson’s handling of Matt Hancock’s exposed breaking of social distancing guidelines and affair with an aide, revealed in leaked CCTV footage last week.
After Hancock initially apologised on Friday with the intention of continuing in his post, the prime minister’s spokesperson said Johnson had accepted the health secretary’s apology and now considered “the matter closed”.
Less than 24 hours later, Matt Hancock resigned and Johnson appointed Sajid Javid as the new health secretary on Saturday evening.
While on his campaign visit today, Johnson faced questions about his government’s “moral compass”. Asked whether the Hancock row undermined the message about being “all in it together”, the PM said: “That’s right, and that’s why when I saw the story on Friday we had a new secretary of state for health on Saturday.”
According to the latest NHS data, more than 4.4m people in the UK have now received their first dose of the vaccine – 84 per cent of the adult population.
Over 3.2m people, or 62 per cent of the adult population, have now received their first dose in the UK.
This figure is likely to increase significantly later today as vaccine numbers from the weekend are counted.