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Press releases

Care Minister Insists 19 July Lockdown Easing Will Be "Irreversible"

Ministers have claimed the final lockdown lifting steps will be "irreversible".

3 min read

Care minister Helen Whately has reiterated Boris Johnson's claim that the final lockdown easing will be "irreversible", despite admitting cases would continue to rise.

Later today Boris Johnson will set out the final step of England's lockdown lifting roadmap, including new guidance on face coverings and social distancing.

The PM will use a Downing Street press conference later today to set confirm the next steps, which had been subject to a four week delay due to rising numbers of the Delta variant across the UK. Heath Secretary Sajid Javid will also update parliament on details of restrictions easing. 

A further increase in new cases – which shot up by more than 70% last week – had led to some suggestion that the mid-July date could be delayed once again, but speaking on Monday, care minister Helen Whateley insisted the success of the vaccine programme meant "we are on track" for the final easing.

"The Prime Minister has said we will want to take a cautious approach, but actually has said an irreversible approach moving forwards," she told the BBC's Today programme.

"One of the things we have heard many times, for instance, from the hospitality sector is how difficult it is to go back and forth.

"This is one reason why in the run up to 21 June, when we were going to have the step towards Step 4, that instead we paused. We paused for a four week period to get more data on the effectiveness of the vaccine, specifically on the Delta variant and to enable more people to be vaccinated."

She added: "It is on the basis of that that we believe we will be able to move forward on 19 July."But Whateley admitted the plans would likely lead to more infections.

"What we do anticipate is we will continue to see infections rise as we open up and more people go about life more as normal," she added.

Further reviews on the use of so-called vaccine passports, and on social distancing rules are also expected to be published today, with the PM set to reveal their findings at the press conference.

In a statement on Sunday, Johnson suggested the new rules would expect people to use more personal judgement when it came to the use of face masks and other social distancing measures.

"I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks," he said.

"As we begin to learn to live with this virus, we must all continue to carefully manage the risks from Covid and exercise judgement when going about our lives."

But Labour shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth urged the government to set out "what level of mortality and cases of long Covid" they would accept before returning some of the lockdown measures.

He added: "Letting cases rise with no action means further pressure on the NHS, more sickness, disruption to education – and risks a new variant emerging with a selection advantage."

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