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Boris Johnson announces 'sketch' for UK's future as the country eases some Covid-19 restrictions

Boris Johnson made the announcement this evening.

Boris Johnson in his address to the UK this evening.
Boris Johnson in his address to the UK this evening.
Image: PA Images

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson offered his country a sketch of how the coming weeks will looks as he set out how the UK plans to leave the strictest restrictions to tackle Covid-19. 

Johnson said it would be “madness” to allow a “second spike” of coronavirus, as he reinforced his government’s new “stay alert” slogan.

“This is not the time to end the lockdown this week,” he told the country. 

Schools and shops could begin a phased reopening in June, while under the plan at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places could reopen as early as July. 

People in the UK will also have more freedom when it comes to exercise from Wednesday.

Johnson also said that from this week anyone who cannot work from home “should be actively encouraged to go to work” but avoid using public transport if possible.

“And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited,” he said. 

Speaking to the BBC this evening, leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer questioned the practicalities of this part of the plan. 

“That’s millions of people. And that means going to work in around 12 hours time, mixed with the message that if it’s possible to do so don’t use public transport. That’s quite a thing to spring on people for tomorrow morning,” he said. 


Praising the response of people in the UK so far, Johnson called on people to keep following government guidance. “And so I know – you know – that it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike,” Johnson said this evening.

“We must stay alert.

“We must continue to control the virus and save lives,” he added.

Johnson acknowledged that lockdown measures against the spread of Covid-19 have come at a “colossal cost to our way of life” as he gave the “first sketch of a road map for reopening society”.

More details will be set out in the House of Commons tomorrow and through questions from the public that evening, he added.

Johnson said the coronavirus death toll has been “tragic, and the suffering immense”, as he addressed the nation.

But he added that obeying the lockdown measures for almost two months had helped prevent a worst case scenario of half a million fatalities.

In a televised speech on Sunday evening, he said: “It is a fact that by adopting those measures we prevented this country from being engulfed by what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst case scenario was half a million fatalities.

“And it is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down.”

It remains to be seen if Northern Ireland deviates at all from the general roadmap announced by Johnson. 

Alert levels

Johnson said there would be five alert levels, with Level Five being “the most critical” and Level One meaning that Covid-19 was “no longer present” in the UK.

He added that throughout the lockdown period the country had been at Level Four but that steps could now be taken to move to Level Three.

“And as we go everyone will have a role to play in keeping the R down by staying alert and following the rules,” he added.

Northern Ireland, alongside Scotland and Wales, confirmed earlier that they had not been consulted over the UK government’s newly unveiled slogan “stay alert, control the virus and save lives”. 

This evening, the Scottish National Party’s Westminister leader Ian Blackford tweeted: “What Boris Johnson announced tonight applies in England. It does not apply in the devolved nations where all three nations will continue with the central message of stay home to support the NHS and to save lives.”

Opposition politicians and a scientist advising the government criticised the new message and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the first she had heard of “the PM’s new slogan” was in newspaper reports.

Scientists belonging to Sage – like the leaders of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – were not consulted over the message before it was unveiled.

Behavioural expert Professor Susan Michie, who is a member of the scientific advisory group for emergencies, said Johnson’s new messaging is “a long way” from being clear and consistent.

Johnson tweeted the new advice, saying that people should “stay at home as much as possible”, keep two metres apart when outside and “limit contact with other people”.

Earlier, the UK’s communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the new warning system will allow for restrictions to be strengthened or relaxed in different areas depending on localised outbreaks.

Ministers are also planning to impose a 14-day quarantine on people arriving in the UK by plane from any country apart from Ireland. 

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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