Boris Johnson has said today that England is still on track to lift Covid restrictions on 21 June “as things stand”, but cautioned there will be a more conclusive answer in a few days’ time.
He said there was “nothing conclusive in the data” on the spread of the Indian Covid variant “to say we have to deviate from the present roadmap” of lifting most, if not all, restrictions.
It comes after media reports that the government is considering local lockdowns in places like Blackburn and Bolton where the more transmissible Indian variant is most prevalent.
Speaking to journalists today, Johnson said: “We’ve got to be cautious and we’re keeping everything under very close observation.
“We’re looking at data from places like Bolton, Blackburn, Bedford, Sefton and other places.
“We’ve got a few more days of looking at that data, but as things stand at the moment I can see nothing conclusive in the data to say we have to deviate from the present roadmap, but we’ve got to be cautious and we’ll be letting people know in a few days’ time.”
The Times reported today that the government was considering implementing local lockdowns in places like Bolton and Blackburn where the more transmissible Indian Covid variant was beginning to spread quickly.
The plan would see non-essential retail and hospitality forced to shut, with the government handing £18,000 to businesses forced to close.
Another option is to delay the 21 June lifting of restrictions, however Downing Street reportedly prefers taking a more targeted approach.
Environment secretary George Eustice said today that local lockdowns are “an option” and that he “can never rule out that there may have to be a delay” to the 21 June target to lifting most if not all England Covid restrictions.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “Our preferred outcome is that we really double down and get the vaccination rates up in those areas that are seeing these problems so that we can give them the immunity that they need to this virus – and then we won’t have to have any such local lockdowns.”
Five or more cases of the Indian Covid-19 variant have been found in 86 English local authorities, with Bolton and Blackburn the two worst affected areas.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that there were 2,323 cases of the more transmissible Covid strain in England, with 483 of them in Bolton and Blackburn where it is the dominant variant.
It is also thought to be spreading across London, however in smaller numbers.
Hancock said the overwhelming evidence showed the variant is not resistant to vaccines and that most of the people who have been hospitalised with the strain have been eligible for a jab but have not had one.