Boris Johnson Warns Pandemic "Is Not Over" As Government Confirms 19 July End To Restrictions
Boris Johnson has urged people to act cautiously when all legal coronavirus restrictions in England are dropped next week, telling the public: "This pandemic is not over."
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister said "now is the right moment to proceed" with the fourth and apparently final step of the government's roadmap for exiting lockdown, despite concerns over the rapidly growing number of Covid infections.
The government believes it can go ahead with lifting legal lockdown restrictions because the vaccine has weakened the link between coronavirus cases and hospitalisations and deaths.
"We know we are going to see more hospitalisation and death from Covid but we also know this wave was foreseen by our scientists when we set out the roadmap in February," Johnson said.
"We are in the middle range of their projections for infections and at the lower end of their projections for mortalities."
Johnson added that further delaying the fourth step of the roadmap would mean lifting the remaining measures later in the year, when colder weather gives the virus a "natural advantage".
However, the Prime Minister urged the public to be careful when legal restrictions are ditched next week, saying "it is vital now we proceed with caution".
He said: "I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough: this pandemic is not over.
"This disease continues to carry risk to you and your family.
"We cannot revert instantly on Monday 19 July to life as it was before Covid."
Johnson said he expects two thirds of adults to have received both jabs of the vaccine by Monday and described receiving the jab as "the single most crucial thing" people can do to be safe as the country emerges from lockdown.
"It is of course only thanks to the vaccine programme that we are able to take these cautious steps now. But to take these steps we must be cautious and we must be vaccinated," he said.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, confirmed earlier that England would next week move into the final step of the roadmap, telling MPs that the government's four tests had been met.
While the number of daily hospitalisations is gradually increasing, it is not growing at the same rate as in previous waves, with Javid telling the House of Commons that the government did not believe the rapid increase in infections would place unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
While all legal restrictions will be lifted next week, people will be advised and expected to wear face coverings in crowded indoor places like public transport.
While government is no longer instructing people to work from home, they are encouraging a gradual return to the workplace over the summer for those who can, rather than suggesting people return en masse.
"We don't expect that the whole country will return to their desks as one on Monday," Johnson said in the press conference.
Additionally, businesses and large events will be supported and encouraged to use Covid certification in high risk settings, such as bars and nightclubs — though it isn't a legal requirement and there'll be no punishment for those who decide not to.
People returning to the UK from red list countries will continue to be required to quarentine, and and self-isolation rules will remain in place for people who come into contact with people with the illness.
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