LIVE: Boris Johnson confirms the end of Covid restrictions in England at Downing Street press conference

Boris Johnson confirmed the Government will push ahead with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England at a press conference today.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 3:53 pm
Updated Monday, 12th July 2021, 9:32 pm
Boris Johnson is holding a press conference this afternoon

The Prime Minister warned that coronavirus infections will rise as he prepared to announce the lifting of restrictions from July 19.

Ahead of a press conference this afternoon, he said England was ‘tantalisingly close’ to restoring its freedoms.

Ministers have concluded that the four tests set for unlocking – the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence that vaccines are causing a reduction in hospital admissions and deaths, that infection rates do not risk a surge in admissions, and that no new variants of concern throw progress off track – are being met, allowing Step 4 of the road map to proceed.

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But his comments came as arguments continued over plans to remove legal requirements to wear face coverings, with one expert adviser to the Government saying it is clear that masks “greatly reduce transmission”.

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LIVE: Boris Johnson holds Downing Street press conference

Last updated: Monday, 12 July, 2021, 18:00

  • Prime Minister expected to confirm end of Covid restrictions in Englad on July 19
  • But Johnson says the move means cases will rise and caution will still be necessary

The Prime Minister says: “I hope that the road map is irreversible but in order to have that it has also got to be a cautious approach, that’s why we waited those extra weeks to get seven million more jabs into people’s arms.

“We will proceed on Monday the 19th but what people need to remember is that this pandemic is not over. If we’re cautious and everybody gets vaccinated, then, yes, we can make steady progress.”

Addressing a question about whether the Government would consider taking a step backwards if levels of hospital admissions rose placing pressure on the NHS, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty says: “There isn’t a cut-off point, but what we’re hoping is that if we proceed now then the peak will be significantly lower than the peak we saw in January, for example.

“But to think we’re not going to have pressure on the NHS is not realistic.

“We may see bits of the NHS under pressure at different times around the country.”

Chris Whitty tells people to “take this really steadily” to minimise the pressure on the NHS.

England’s chief medical officer says: “Inevitably, everybody who works in the NHS – and indeed everybody who might use it or has friends or relatives who might use it – is going to want to keep the numbers of cases right down.

“That is one of the many reasons why we really want to urge people to take this really steadily because that’s the way to keep the numbers down, to keep the pressure on the NHS lower and make the possibility of clearing this number of cases much easier.”

Prof Whitty says there is “no clear evidence” that having a further delay to the next step of the road map would make a difference.

“There is less agreement about what is an ideal date to make a move and the reason for that is there is no such thing as an ideal date – all the possible dates have downsides,” he says.

“As the Prime Minister has said, if we could go at this point in time, we go at a point when there are still some people being vaccinated but we are not going at a point when schools are just coming back, and we’re not going at a point where we’re going into autumn and winter.

“The modelling studies that have been done on this largely show that all dates essentially tend to lead to broadly similar outcomes, different models come to very slightly different conclusions.

“There is no clear evidence – in comparison to the previous occasion when a delay was clearly going to make a difference – there is no clear evidence that the delay now is going to make a difference.

“What is going to make a difference is going slowly.”

Whitty warns people may need to take “sensible precautions” if there is a rise in Covid cases over the winter, but says a return of restrictions is not inevitable.

He says the country could be facing a “slightly more difficult winter” for flu which could in turn lead to people adopting extra precautions.

“That is very different from issues around restrictions, which are very much an issue for ministers.

“There is not an inevitability in any way that because we have a surge which may lead to people thinking ‘Okay we may need to be a bit more careful’, that leads to anything which ministers have to do.

“That is just a reality that we are going to face in the coming winter and may well face in future winters.”

Boris Johnson ends the press conference by urging people to get vaccinated.

“This is a big package of measures that will only work if people are cautious and, most importantly, get vaccinated. I hope people, particularly young people who have the chance, take it up over the next few days,” he says.

Addressing a question about whether the UK should continue its bid to host the World Cup next year in light of the anti-social behaviour seen on Sunday before and after England’s match against Italy in the Euro 2020 final, the Prime Minister says the country has a ‘very, very good case’: “It was a shame a small minority yesterday tried to spoil it but I don’t think it damaged the atmosphere, certainly not in the stadium itself.

“I do think the UK has a very, very good case. I wouldn’t want to let my hopes run away with me but we’ll certainly give it our best shot.”

He says the final step of the road map “should not be taken as an invitation by everybody simply to have a great jubilee and freedom from any kind of caution or restraint”.

“I think what we want to do is get people to think carefully about the ending of the restrictions that we’re announcing today,” he says.

“This is not the end of Covid, it requires constant vigilance. It means thinking about others as well as yourself.

“It means thinking about wearing a face covering in confined spaces where you meet other people that you don’t normally meet, as we said earlier on and we said last week.

“Because the legal restrictions have come off should not be taken as an invitation by everybody simply to have a great jubilee and freedom from any kind of caution or restraint.”

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