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Boris Johnson orders ministers to 'accelerate end to lockdown' to avoid millions of job losses

Boris Johnson has reportedly asked ministers to draw up plans for a further easing of lockdown

3 min read

Boris Johnson has reportedly ordered ministers to speed up plans for easing the lockdown amid fears that millions of jobs could be lost.

According to the Sunday Times, the move came after Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma warned the PM that failure to reopen the hospitality sector over the summer could result in 3.5m jobs being lost.

Under the plans set to be unveiled this week, pubs, cafes and restaurants will be see restrictions eased to allow them to use outdoor areas, while places of worship could be reopened on June 15 for private prayer.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has reportedly been ordered to secure "travel corridor" deals with some countries by 28 June to allow some overseas holidays to go ahead.

The plans, reportedly signed off by Mr Johnson on Friday evening, come ahead of a planned lifting of some restrictions later this month.

From 15 June, non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen in England, while Mr Shapps said last week that public transport services would be increased to meet the rising demand of passengers as people return to work.

Speaking to the paper, one cabinet minister said the changes to lockdown were "long overdue", adding: "It's right that the emphasis has shifted to the economic side and a return to normal life."

Another senior source added: "Boris wants us back to normal, or as near to it as possible before the summer."

But the plans come amid growing concern from medical experts that ministers are already moving too fast in easing the restrictions, with Sir Jeremy Farrar, one of the advisers on the government's Sage committee warning they risked a "rebound" in infections.

He added: "Covid-19 is spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England".

'Rebuild Britain'

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is reportedly gearing up to make a major intervention in the coming weeks to explain how he plans to "rebuild Britain" in the wake of the pandemic.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Johnson will use the speech to set out a "map" for how he intends to relaunch his party's domestic agenda, including plans to speed up the building of new hospitals and boosting the "resilience" of the NHS before the winter.

Other measures to shore up the economy, including a major investment in roads and infrastructure projects as well as a funding boost for the UK's science budget, are also expected as part of the plans.

It comes after Mr Johnson suggested last week that all young people in the country could be offered apprenticeships in a bid to avoid mass unemployment.

And one Whitehall source told the paper the plans were being drawn up to reassure the public the response to the pandemic would not be a "repeat of 2008".

"People are worried that they will face another decade of austerity and cuts to public services to pay the bill for coronavirus - this is not going to happen," they said.

"Getting the immediate crisis under control remains the Prime Minister’s main focus."

"But the government is also preparing for tough economic times ahead. The PM wants to explain that rebuilding after this crisis won’t be a repeat of 2008.

They added: "In the election the PM made the right diagnosis of the problems many people face. He believes now is the time to be even more ambitious with his plans to unite and level up the country."

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