The Prime Minister is expected to confirm plans to lift all remaining Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England today (12 July), despite rising cases.
Boris Johnson has said that the plan to restore freedoms “must come with a warning”, stressing the need for caution as the country moves towards Step 4 of the lockdown exit plan.
'Caution is absolutely vital'
Mr Johnson will host a press conference on Monday (12 July) where he is expected to confirm the plan to lift all remaining restrictions on 19 July, including the legal requirement to wear face masks.
Downing Street said the lifting of measures will be based on four key tests. These include the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence the coronavirus vaccines is causing a reduction in hospital admissions and deaths, that infection rates do not risk a surge in admissions, and that no new Covid-19 variants of concern throw the progress made off track.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid will announce the plans in Parliament while Mr Johnson delivers the press conference.
Restrictions were originally meant to be lifted last month on 23 June but plans were delayed amid concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta Covid variant.
Downing Street has said the delay has meant the end of restrictions is closer to the school holidays, where transmission rates are expected to be lower, while reopening later in the year risks putting too much pressure on the NHS due to other seasonal illnesses, such as flu.
Mr Johnson said the end of restrictions in England is now “tantalisingly close”, but warned that coronavirus cases will rise once Covid-19 rules are removed and stressed the need for caution in the coming weeks.
He said: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet.
“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear.
“Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”
Covid vaccines reducing infections and deaths
A total of 31,772 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases had been recorded in the UK as of 9am on Sunday (11 July), the government has said.
A further 26 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday (10 July), bringing the total UK deaths to 128,425.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
A total of 80,646,232 coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the UK up to 10 July, 45,881,721 of which were first doses, while 34,764,511 were second doses.
The vaccines have so far prevented an estimated 8.5 million Covid-19 infections and 30,000 deaths in England alone, analysis from Public Health England (PHE) and the University of Cambridge suggests.
The government is planning to roll out a vaccine booster programme from September in an effort to keep coronavirus cases under control and prevent a winter lockdown.
On Sunday, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “One of the things that we’ve done, obviously, we’ve got the vaccination programme, but we’re already planning… the NHS is planning for co-administration of the Covid boost starting early September, with flu, because we’ve had very little flu circulating in communities because of the lockdown.”