Sajid Javid pledges to meet July 19th lockdown goals
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The Prime Minister is set to confirm this week that the date, dubbed Freedom Day, will mark the end of lockdown measures domestically. The Sunday Express understands that he will say that people will have to “learn to live with covid” as they do with other diseases such as flu. The new approach comes after Matt Hancock resigned as health secretary and replaced him by Sajid Javid. Mr Javid made it clear last week in his first statement to the Commons that he does not want to delay beyond July 19 to end lockdown, The Prime Minister will this week flesh out the details about the exit plans.
But last night a senior Whitehall source said: “The message will be that it is time for a return to common sense and personal responsibility.”
It is understood that the government’s four tests for lockdown are being met with the current data which show infections are going up but hospitalisations and death remain low.
“Essentially the vaccine is working,” the source said. “This means we can go ahead on July 19 as planned.”
It is also understood that the Prime Minister’s desire for a “permanent end” to lockdowns makes a winter shutdown highly unlikely, meaning Christmas should not be disrupted.
The source said: ““Of course you can never absolutely guarantee against lockdowns in the future but barring an extreme variant the plan is not to go back to them and for people to learn to live with the virus and obviously take sensible precautions themselves.
“The vaccine has severed the link between the virus and hospitalisation and deaths so as things stand we will not need to go back to lockdowns.”
The Government also expects to receive the results on the reviews on covid certification – often referred to as vaccine passports passports – and social distancing to come out this week.
They are expected to provide more evidence that people in Britain will be able to go ahead with their normal lives.
The source said: “One important development will be that there will be no legal obligation to wear masks any more. There will be guidance for people to take precautions if they think it is necessary but all measures will be strictly voluntary and cannot be legally enforced.
“So for example people will be allowed to travel on the tube without a mask but if someone feels safer wearing one then they can continue to do so.”
However, people hoping to go abroad this year for their summer holidays may be forced to wait more time.
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Last night Downing Street cautioned against reports that double vaccinated people would be exempt from quarantine.
A Number 10 source said: “The double vaccine pass] is something we are considering as part of the post step 4 world, but nothing firm and we aren’t near a decision on it.”
Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer in communicable diseases at the University of Exeter’s medical school, said he thought it was “perfectly OK” for people who had received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine to be exempt from quarantine measures.
He said: “The gold standard would be to be cautious even if you have been immunised twice – in other words, fully immunised.
“However, as a measured action going forward I think it is OK and my reasons are as follows: an immunised person is less infectious and furthermore the testing of people who are in quarantine isolating is pretty inaccurate, so balancing both, I think it is perfectly OK.”
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News of the lifting comes as it emerges that dozens of Conservative backbenchers threatened to rebel against the government if there was any attempt to delay the end of lockdown further following the four weeks added to the original June 21 deadline.
One of the 2019 intake said: “A number of us have been discussing this on Whatsapp groups. Many of us reluctantly agreed to the four week delay but we have told our whips that enough is enough.
“The damage this is doing to the country economically is too great and with the vaccine rollout we need to end lockdown on July 19. There will be a much bigger rebellion if the government tries to extend it again or reintroduce measures.”
Another MP, who described himself as a loyalist, said: “We have all reached the end of the road with this thing. It is time to return to normal and start trying to repair the economy.”
A third added: “The change of health secretary has been positive and it looks like we are on our way to a more sensible outcome.
“I don’t believe the Prime Minister wants to extend again but if he did dozens of us would rebel. He would probably need Labour votes to get it through.”
Meanwhile, members of the Conservative group the Covid Research Group are urging the government to ensure that guidance is not written in a way that allows insurance companies, schools or other institutions to force an extension of the measures.
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates said: “The Health Secretary has indicated that all Covid legislation will be lifted on 19th July and I warmly welcome this, but social distancing guidance must also be removed.
“As long as government recommendations around mask wearing, home working, singing and indoor capacity remain in place, it is inevitable that insurance companies will prevent businesses, churches etc. from operating as normal. Covid is no longer a significant threat; we must to return to a situation where individuals – not the Government or big organisations – make their own decisions around risk.”
Some doctors have urged the Government to keep some restrictions in place in England after July 19 in a bid to stem the rate of infection.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said that keeping some protective measures in place was “crucial” to stop spiralling case numbers having a “devastating impact” on people’s health, the NHS, the economy and education.
And yesterday, a professor in health psychology suggested that even if politicians are getting weary of lockdown, the public still understand the importance of the restrictions.
Robert West, of University College London and who sits on the Spi-B governemnt advisory team, said: “What has been really interesting throughout this pandemic is that we’ve heard right from the beginning about pandemic fatigue and people getting weary and so on.
“But when you look at people’s behaviour and also their attitude, what you see is something very different.”
He told Times Radio: “By and large, although the politicians might be getting a bit weary of it, people really understand the importance of the measures and the restrictions.”
The lifting of restrictions is also likely to be resisted by campaigners calling for a zero covid approach.
This sees measures kept in place until the virus has been eliminated.
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