Boris Johnson Tells MPs Herd Immunity Is “Not A Consideration” In The Government’s Lockdown Roadmap
Boris Johnson has told senior MPs that allowing the UK to reach herd immunity this summer is not part of the government’s lockdown lifting plan.
In an appearance before the liaison committee, the Prime Minister was asked whether the government had chosen to exempt double vaccinated adults from self-isolation requirements from 16 August because it was the date “you expect us to reach herd immunity in this country”.
But Johnson insisted that this was “not a consideration” for the government, and said the date had been chosen as it was “the time by which we feel that there will have been much more progress made” in the vaccine rollout.
“By the 16th of August, we will have got many more jabs into people's arms, many more young and healthy people,” he said.
Johnson also dismissed concerns over the number of people who could be required to self-isolate from 19 July until the exemption for the double-vaccinated comes into effect.
"There could be around 100,000 infections a day, and if each of those has two contacts each, that's 200,000 a day,” said chair of the science and technology select committee Greg Clark.
“Over the course of the 28 days extra days that have been imposed, that's over 5 million people. Is that a reasonable step?"
The PM responded that he "hasn't seen any data on that", and stressed that the government has been "looking at all the data, and trying to strike the balance".
"You could simply say we are going to dispense with it all straight away... but the difficulty with that is you would be effectively allowing many more people to be vectors of disease,” he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Prime Minister managed to swerve concerns raised by opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer regarding how the government was going to stop people deleting the NHS Covid-19 to avoid having to self-isolate.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said earlier this week that the UK could see 100,000 coronavirus infections per day this summer as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
But Starmer said the government was trying to "wish away the practical problems” of such a scenario, suggesting that “millions” could be forced to self isolate causing "huge disruption to families and businesses just as the summer holidays begin”.
The PM was also quizzed by MPs on his government's education policy following the news that the system of "school bubbles" is set to be scrapped alongside other Covid restrictions from 19 July.
Johnson said he was aware that the system is is "unbelievably frustrating" for parents and said that the best thing to do was to move from "bubbling to testing" in order to keep more children in schools.
"What's happened over the last 18 months has been debilitating — they have lost unconscionable amounts of teaching and learning time. We must make it better," he said.
The PM also rejected claims made by petitions committee chair Catherine McKinnell that the UK is under-investing in school catch-up for children compared to other countries, claiming "that's not how I see it."
On the government's plans to cut the Universal Credit uplift — a move which work and pensions committee chair Stephen Timms warned could push 200,000 children into poverty — Johnson said the "answer is get people into work".
"If you look at what is actually happening in the jobs market, the problem at the moment is a shortage of labour, not a shortage of jobs."
During his previous appearance in front of the committee, Johnson hinted that pubs could start asking punters for proof of vaccination on the door despite previously stating it wouldn’t be necessary.
Johnson confirmed on Monday, however, that this proposal had been scrapped along with all plans to require proof of coronavirus status to enter certain venues.
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