Johnson to focus on ‘data, not dates’ for ending restrictions

Schools expected to reopen in March with other measures eased at four-week intervals

British prime minister Boris Johnson touches elbows with health worker Liz Hallett (left) during a visit to the vaccination centre at Cwmbran Stadium on February 17th in Cwmbran, Wales. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/WPA Pool/Getty

British prime minister Boris Johnson touches elbows with health worker Liz Hallett (left) during a visit to the vaccination centre at Cwmbran Stadium on February 17th in Cwmbran, Wales. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/WPA Pool/Getty

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has promised to focus on “data, not dates” next week when he announces his plan to unwind coronavirus restrictions over the coming months.

Speaking during a visit to a mass vaccination centre in south Wales, he said the lockdown would be lifted in stages, with bars and restaurants among the last businesses to reopen fully.

“We need to go cautiously. You have to remember from last year that we opened up hospitality fully as one of the last things that we did because there is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality. I know there’s a lot of understandable speculation in the papers and people coming up with theories about what we’re going to do, what we’re going to say, and about the rates of infection, and so on,” he said.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce next Monday that schools will reopen in March, with other restrictions eased at four-weekly intervals starting at the beginning of April. Coronavirus rates in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest level since early autumn last year but there are still more than 10,000 new cases a day.

Outdoor activities

Restrictions on outdoor activities are likely to be the first to be eased and Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, told MPs on Wednesday that despite public outrage over crowded beaches last year, no outbreaks had been linked to such a setting.

“Over the summer we were treated to all this on the television news and pictures of crowded beaches and there was an outcry about this. There were no outbreaks linked to crowded beaches. There’s never been a Covid-19 outbreak linked to a beach ever anywhere in the world to the best of my knowledge,” he told the science and technology committee at Westminster.

The pace of Britain’s vaccine rollout has helped to give the government a modest poll boost in recent weeks but Labour leader Keir Starmer will go on the offensive on Thursday, blaming the Conservatives for leaving the country exposed to the pandemic and declaring that there can be “no return to business as usual” when it is over. In an economic policy speech, Sir Keir will say that Britain needs a call to arms like the Beveridge Report in the 1940s, which envisaged the welfare state.

“I believe people are now looking for more from their government – like they were after the second World War. They’re looking for government to help them through difficult times, to provide security and to build a better future for them and their families. They want a government that knows the value of public services not just the price in the market,” he will say.

Sir Keir will call for a new partnership between government and business that “tackles inequality, invests in the future and builds a more secure and prosperous economy”.

Momentum, the left-wing movement close to Labour, said the speech offered no ambition and little substance, warning that chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak could outflank the opposition by investing in the economy and the National Health Service.

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE