Prime Minister Announces Easing of Restrictions

Prime Minister Announces Final Step out of Lockdown to go ahead as planned

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed at yesterday’s Covid-19 Downing Street press conference that Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown will go ahead next Monday 19 July, as planned.

Joined by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister emphasised the need for caution. While the work from home order will end, it is not expected that everyone will return to their offices at once. Similarly, people will be expected to continue to wear masks in crowded spaces and venues such as nightclubs will be encouraged to use Covid certification as a condition for entry.

Covid-19 Downing Street Press Conference – 12 July

 The Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced:

  • The UK is at a stage of the pandemic with no easy answer. Cases are rising significantly with over 30,000 cases per day and we can see what is happening in Europe as the Delta variant takes hold.
  • There will be more hospitalisations and more deaths, however this wave was foreseen when the government first set the roadmap out of lockdown. The UK is in the middle of the range of projections for case numbers, and at the lower end for hospitalisations and deaths.
  • Delaying the fourth step would result in reopening as the weather gets colder and when schools are back. As such, now is the right time to proceed with the natural firebreak of the school holidays. It is vital to proceed with caution – the pandemic is not over and the disease continues to carry risks.
  • Plans to end the legal restrictions on masks and social distancing will proceed, but it is expected that people will continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces and when coming into contact with people they don’t usually meet.
  • The work from home order is ending but the government does not expect that everyone will return to their desks as one. Guidance for a gradual return to work will be set out.
  • The government is urging nightclubs to make use of the NHS Covid Pass, which shows proof of vaccination, a negative test or natural immunity, as a means of entry. The guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable will be updated. Border restrictions will remain, as will the Test, Trace and Isolate system.
  • By next Monday, two thirds of adults will have received their second dose and every adult will have been offered their first dose. It is only thanks to the vaccine that the government can take these steps now.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty set out the four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully: A majority of every adult age group has now had their vaccination.
  • Evidence shows the vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated: The government has considerable confidence that one dose reduces the chances of getting symptomatic infection by a third, with two doses reduced by 80%. They are substantially more effective against hospitalisation and severe disease.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisation which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS: At this point in time, the rate of hospitalisation is far below the autumn and spring peaks. Case data is matching the autumn wave, while admissions are significantly lower, although still rising, and mortality remains lower still, although still rising. Modelling data implies that by going slowly with the next stage of the roadmap, it will not put undue pressure on the NHS.
  • The risks are not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern (VOC): The Delta variant is now dominant in the UK and so not a VOC. Other variants are low in prevalence and at this point not rising. As such, there are no current VOCs that are going to change the analysis made.

Three tests have been passed clearly, while one test has been passed with some caution.

There are three areas where there is overwhelming scientific agreement and one where opinion is mixed. There is wide agreement that the four week delay had a significant impact on reducing hospitalisations and deaths. There is also wide agreement that whenever the next step proceeds, there will be an exit step. The slower we take it, the lower the number of people who have Covid will be. There is less agreement on an ideal date to take this step but there is no such thing as an ideal date. The modelling shows that all dates result in broadly similar outcomes, unlike with delaying from 21 June. There is overwhelming agreement that vaccination reduces the chances people will get Covid, that they require hospital treatment, and they will pass it on to others.