BORIS Johnson has warned the public to expect more Covid deaths as he confirmed all restrictions are to be lifted in England – but insisted “this pandemic is not over”.
The Prime Minister confirmed that all legal restrictions are to be lifted south of the border from next Monday, July 19, but the public in England will be urged to keep wearing face masks in certain situations.
England’s chief medical officer warned there will be “an exit wave” as restrictions are lifted.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will update MSPs on Tuesday on plans to ease the remaining restrictions in Scotland.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Mr Johnson admitted there was “no easy answer and no obvious date for unlocking”.
He added that modelling shows “cases rising significantly” but said “this was clearly foreseen by our scientists”.
Mr Johnson added: “We know we are going to see more hospitalisations and more deaths from Covid.”
Despite the grim forecasts, the Prime Minister said that modelling put the situation at the “lower end of their projections for mortality”.
The Prime Minister warned that if the easing of restrictions was further delayed, officials would risk “re-opening as the weather gets colder” which would help the virus spread more rapidly.
He added that “we think now is the right moment to proceed”, pointing to a “natural fire break of the school holidays” in England.
Mr Johnson said: “It’s absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution.
“This pandemic is not over.
“We will stick to our plan to left legal restrictions and lift social distancing.”
The Prime Minister said that although the legal restriction will be ended requiring people in England to wear masks, the UK Government is recommending people cover their face in “enclosed spaces” where close contact cannot be avoided, “such as public transport”.
Mr Johnson also highlighted the legal restriction for people to work from home where possible is to end, but said: “We don’t expect that the whole country will return to their desks as one from Monday.”
He said: “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.”
He added: “We will keep our tough border policy including quarantine for those arriving from red list countries.”
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officers, said “we should go slowly and steadily and cautiously as the Prime Minister has laid out”.
He added: “There is extremely wide agreement that whenever we go through the next step, there is going to be an exit wave – there will be a wave associated with that – and that the slower we take it, the fewer the people who will have Covid, the smaller the peak will be and the smaller the number of people who go into hospital and die.
“Going very slowly though this step is really essential and this again is an overwhelming view of the scientific people who have looked at this.”
Professor Whitty added that there was “less agreement” from the scientific community on an ideal date for removing restrictions.
He added: “There is no such thing as an ideal date. All the possible dates have downsides.
“If we 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 into autumn and winter.”