BORIS Johnson today slapped down critics urging him to unlock the nation faster – as the PM argued it was sensible and a balanced approach.
Speaking on a visit to a school today he said he was confident about a slow, cautious return to normality, adding: “Some people will say we’re going to be going too fast, some people will say we’re going too slow.”
The PM outlined his four-stage roadmap to the nation yesterday.
Schools will open to pupils from March 8, and one-on-one leisure outside will be allowed.
From the end of the month outdoor sport will reopen and people can meet in groups of six outside and the ‘stay at home’ message binned.
In April, hairdressers, gyms and shops will reopen, and in May all indoor activities like cinemas and bowling alleys will be able to return, and hotels can reopen.
Pubs can serve outside from April and inside from May.
By June 21 the PM hopes all restrictions can be lifted.
But he faced grumblings from senior Tories and even previously cautious scientists who said he should go even faster and further.
Steve Baker MP said last night: “Today’s pace of change will be a hammer blow to aviation, pubs, restaurants, hotels, gyms & pools, the arts and entertainment Once again, it seems to be modelling not data driving decisions.”
And even Professor Neil Ferguson, who called for the lockdown approach in the first place, suggested it may be possible.
The lockdown broke cover to declare: “If we’re in best case scenario where vaccine effectiveness is greater than estimates… there’s always potential of accelerating rate of relaxation.”
But Matt Hancock, No10 and the PM pushed back on their demands.
Today the PM described his plan as a “sensible” but “prudent” approach” and said he wanted it to be “irreversible” with no way back into lockdown.
The PM has been boosted by snap polls showing the public largely backs his stance, with 46 per cent telling YouGov it is about right.
He stressed: “We open up on June, the 21st in a way that I don’t think people would really have thought possible, had it not been for the rollout of the vaccinations.
“It’s those vaccinations that massive programme, led by the NHS that has made all the difference.”
He added: “I am very optimistic that we will be able to get there.”
But he vowed that “nothing can be guaranteed” in the current climate and it depends on people following the rules in each stage.
The “immense possibilities” of the vaccine rollout would lead to a “shield around our population”.
Boris also talked about the possibility of vaccine passports and his review which would look at whether they would be an option for opening up the UK.
He said it would be an “ethical” issue to look at the certificates which may ban people from going to certain places without having the jab.
But he talked down the prospect, saying many people can’t have the vaccine, such as children and those with other conditions, and some will refuse.
Michael Gove will lead the “proper review into the issue” in the next few weeks and months, gathering evidence
He added: “Libertarians will object, but others will think there is a case for it.
“We need to thrash all this out.”
Four tests for lifting measures
This assessment will be based on four tests:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
Several countries have said they will insist on vaccine passports in order to travel abroad.
Boris confirmed that certificates for flying on holiday would become the norm, saying: “It’s going to come to the international stage, whatever.”
Brits are willing to carry a vaccine passport if it means pubs and restaurants can reopen sooner, a poll revealed at the weekend.
Six in ten people back the idea of introducing documents to prove they have had a jab.