Boris Johnson: Our new freedoms are here to stay

Dominic Raab grilled by Ridge over lockdown restrictions review

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He is due to announce at Cabinet that indoor gatherings of up to six people can resume next Monday – and that people can embrace again, as long as they use “common sense”. Mr Johnson said last night: “The roadmap remains on track. We can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly. The data reflects what we already knew – we are not going to let this virus beat us.” He added: “Our successful vaccination programme continues – more than twothirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine.

“It’s because of the British public’s unwavering commitment that we are saving lives, protecting the NHS and controlling the virus.”

Mr Johnson, will use a Downing Street news conference this evening to thank the British public for their patience and fortitude in putting up with restrictions on freedoms during coronavirus lockdowns.

Data to be presented to a meeting of the Prime Minister’s Covid committee of key ministers and to a Cabinet call today will show that the planned “stage three” easing of restrictions in England set out in his roadmap out of lockdown are unlikely to risk a renewed surge in the virus that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Infection rates are at their lowest level since September.

Meanwhile hospital admission rates for Covid patients are continuing to fall, with levels in most of the country down to their lowest since July.

One in 1,180 people have Covid-19 – the figure was one in 480 at the start of last month.

Data today will confirm that all four of the Government’s roadmap tests have been met: ensuring the vaccine rollout continues, that the jabs are cutting hospitalisations and deaths from Covid, that infection rates are not threatening unsustainable pressure on the NHS and that virus variants are not changing fundamentally the official risk assessment.

Ministers will be told that more than 50 million injections have been given.

The inoculation programme remains on track to offer all adults at least one dose by the end of July.

Officials say border controls, surge testing and community testing are finding and isolating new cases of virus variants and will continue to be used.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove yesterday confirmed that Government advice will allow “intimate contact” between family and friends to be “restored” from next Monday.

Appearing on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said the Prime Minister will confirm today “that there will be a relaxation [of restrictions]”.

He added: “We’ve already indicated a proportionate relaxation on international travel, very limited at this stage because we have to be safe.

“In the same way, as we move into stage three of our roadmap it will be the case that we will see people capable of meeting indoors. And, without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing, it is also the case that friendly contact, intimate contact, between friends and family is something we want to see restored.”

Next week’s easing of restrictions will see most social contact rules outdoors lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 will remain illegal. Indoors, the rule of six or two households will apply, while indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes are expected to be back in operation.

Mr Gove also said the Government was reviewing if pupils should continue to wear masks in schools from next Monday.

Ministers have faced calls from teaching union leaders for face coverings to remain in use in secondary schools and colleges.

When asked whether school masks will discarded, Mr Gove said: “What we want to do throughout is balance public health by making sure we can return to normal as quickly as possible.

“I won’t pre-empt that judgment, we’ll be seeing more about it shortly.” The head of the Oxford University Vaccine Group has said he believed it is the right time to ease further restrictions in England.

Prof Andrew Pollard said the country has witnessed the “extraordinary success” of both the vaccination programme and the “prolonged” lockdown.

“It is time to start, based on the very careful modelling that’s been done, relaxing some of those restrictions,” he told the Andrew Marr Show.

“That means we’re in a very fortunate position here in the UK.”

The Government last week announced plans to allow international travel from May 17 after months of banning most journeys abroad.

The move was met with much criticism from travel industry leaders who described the “cautious” approach to unlocking foreign trips as “disappointing”, after only 12 countries were put on the quarantine-free “green list”.

The Government said a further five people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 127,603, with a further 2,047 lab confirmed cases.

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