Boris blasts Labour claims of recklessness over scrapping Covid rules on July 19

Boris Johnson reinforces plans to end lockdown on July 19th

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The Prime Minister said his target date should mark the conclusion of the roadmap out of lockdown, insisting the plan was cautious. Mr Johnson is due to announce his final decision on Monday. Speaking to the Commons Liaison Committee yesterday, the PM said he expected to be able to give pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues the go-ahead to abandon social distancing measures from that date.

 

He also hit back at Labour criticism saying the Government’s approach was “balanced and reasonable”.

Mr Johnson said: “Now it looks as though – we will take the final decision on July 12 – but it looks as though we will get through to step four, which will allow them [hospitality venues] to open up fully without the need for the one-metre rule.”

Rishi Sunak last night predicted that the easing of restrictions will lead to a “boost” for the economy.

In an exclusive article for the Daily Express marking a year since the unveiling of his Plan For Jobs multi-billion pound support package, the Chancellor wrote: “As restrictions come to an end later in the month, the economy will see a further boost.

“And yet, our work is far from over. It will take some time for the economy to fully recover from the impact of the crisis.

“So our commitment to supporting people through the next stage of the recovery remains unchanged and we are going long with support.”

Mr Johnson said projections of the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths from easing lockdown made by his scientific advisers were at the “middle to the low”.He also signalled that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will make an announcement about possible changes to international travel restrictions today.

The PM said: “The crucial thing is to remember that currently we need to contain the pandemic, but double vaccination is clearly the way forward.”

Mr Johnson also defended his decision to delay easing quarantine rules for children and double-vaccinated adults who come into contact with someone testing positive until August 16.

Pressed by a member of the committee that the delay could lead to an additional five million people being forced to quarantine at home, he said: “All these decisions are a balance of risk. This is a highly contagious disease. We have to do what we can to stop its spread.

“We have been looking at all the data and trying to strike the right balance.

“You could say we are going to dispense altogether with self-isolation and move straight to a testing regime.

“The difficulty with that is that you would effectively be allowing many more people to be vectors of disease than by continuing with our plan.”

Mr Johnson also said the Government was “looking at the evidence” for ­extending the school day. He said: “Over the summer, there are all the summer schools – a big effort to try and help kids catch up as well.”

Earlier, the PM insisted his schedule for lifting lockdown was well considered in response to criticism from Sir Keir Starmer. In a clash at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader had claimed the Government plans were “reckless”.

But Mr Johnson told him: “We will continue with a balanced and reasonable approach, and I have given the reasons.

“This country has rolled out the fastest vaccination programme anywhere in Europe. The vaccines provide more than 90 percent protection against hospitalisation and, by July 19, we will have vaccinated every adult, with all having been offered one vaccination and everybody over 40 having been offered two vaccinations.

“That is an extraordinary achievement, and that is allowing us to go ahead.”

Mocking Labour’s support for keeping the UK signed up to the European Medicines Agency, the PM added: “Frankly, if we had listened to him, we would not now be proceeding cautiously, pragmatically, sensibly to reopen our society and our economy, and giving people back the chance to enjoy the freedoms they love.

“We are getting on with taking the tough decisions to take this country forward. We vaccinate, they vacillate.”

Sir Keir had blamed the Government’s border policy for the spread of the Delta variant and joked it should be renamed the “Johnson variant”.

The Labour leader said: “Let us be clear why infection rates are so high. It is because the PM let the Delta, or we can call it the Johnson, variant into the country.”

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