Boris Johnson warns COVID restrictions could linger beyond the already delayed July 19 end date
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said some “extra precautions” could still be required even after the July 19 date he has said will mark the end of the country’s Covid restrictions.
The premier said he was “impatient” to get back to normal life but would not rule out keeping regulations or guidance in place on wearing masks in crowded public areas or on people keeping a specified distance apart.
Johnson said he will be setting out his plans for what the next phase of the U.K.’s route out of pandemic restrictions will look like when it comes into force, due to be on July 19.
“We’ll be wanting to go back to a world that is as close to the status quo ante-Covid, as possible,” Johnson said on a visit to a factory in Sunderland, northeastern England on Thursday. “But there may be some things we have to do, extra precautions that we have to take, but I’ll be setting them out.”
Any move to retain virus measures would likely face vocal opposition from within Johnson’s Conservative Party, with an increasing number of rank and file members of Parliament calling for an end to all curbs. In June, Johnson suffered a significant rebellion from his own MPs over his decision to delay the final easing of restrictions by a month to July 19.
Coronavirus infections have been rising steeply in the U.K. in recent weeks, fueled by the more-transmissible delta variant, with latest figures showing 26,068 new cases reported on Wednesday, the most since Jan. 29.
However, deaths and hospitalizations have remained low compared to previous waves of the disease in Britain, giving the government confidence that restrictions will be lifted on July 19.
“The speed of the vaccine roll-out has broken that link between infection and mortality and that’s an amazing thing,” Johnson said in Sunderland. “That gives us the scope, we think on the 19th to go ahead, cautiously, irreversibly.”
Most coronavirus restrictions were eased in Britain in May, however nightclubs remain closed and restaurants and bars cannot serve at full capacity due to the need to maintain social distancing.
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