Covid: 19 July ‘looking good’ for end of lockdown, says PM

Written by on June 23, 2021

Plans to ease Covid restrictions in England on 19 July are “looking good”, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said that was based on the efficacy of vaccines against identified variants.

But he warned there could be a “rough winter for all sorts of reasons”, including a resurgence of flu.

It comes as the health secretary said he hoped to exempt fully vaccinated people from the requirement to isolate for 10 days when contact-traced.

Asked during on a visit to a laboratory in Hertfordshire whether he could rule out further lockdowns this winter, Mr Johnson said: “You can never exclude that there will be some new disease, some new horror that we simply haven’t budgeted for, or accounted for.

“But looking at where we are, looking at the efficacy of the vaccines against all variants that we can currently see – so Alpha, Delta, the lot of them, Kappa – I think it’s looking good for 19 July to be that terminus point.”

His comments came after Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the government’s advisory committee on vaccination, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that flu “could be potentially a bigger problem this winter than Covid.”

Flu immunity is likely to have dropped in the population as a result of low prevalence because of lockdowns, and it could come “back to bite us”, he said.

Mr Johnson said the risk of a “rough winter” was “all the more reason to reduce the number of Covid cases now, give the NHS the breathing space it needs to get on with dealing with all those other pressures, and we are certainly going to be putting in the investment to make sure that they can”.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that he hoped to bring in a new approach to self-isolation to reflect the changing situation as the country opens up more and more.

For the past two months, a pilot study has been under way in which 40,000 people who have been named as contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid have been allowed to take daily Covid tests and continue with their lives, rather than having to self-isolate.

“We’re piloting that now to check that will be effective and it is something that we’re working on,” the health secretary said.

“We’re not ready to be able to take that step yet. But it’s something that I want to see and we will introduce, subject to clinical advice, as soon as it’s reasonable to do so.”

The trial is not expected to be completed until later in the summer.

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