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Boris Johnson faces questions from House of Commons on UK Covid-19 roadmap

Johnson said that any divergence across the UK on lockdown measures should only be short-term.

Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Image: House of Commons

Updated May 11th 2020, 4:00 PM

BORIS JOHNSON HAS faced questions in the House of Commons about his government’s plan for an easing of Covid-19 restrictions. 

Johnson said the UK “can, with the upmost caution, gradually begin to rebuild our economy and open our society”.

The plan is not being followed in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with Johnson facing questions about the clarity of messaging around his roadmap.

“Our challenge now is to find a way forward that preserves our hard-won gains while easing with the burden of lockdown. And I will be candid with the House, this is a supremely difficult balance to strike,” Johnson said. 

“There could be no greater mistake than to jeopardise everything we’ve striven to achieve by proceeding too far and too fast,” he added.

“We will be driven not by hope or economic revival as an end in itself, but by data and science and public health.”

In the House of Commons, the UK prime minister outlined his plan to MPs, before taking questions. 

“If we stay on the downward slope,” he said of the plan, “then and only then will it be safe to go further”. 

Johnson said that under the new plan, people “can walk, sit and rest in parks” with members of your household or with “one other person from another household provided you observe social distancing”.

“I hope that’s clear,” he told a near-empty House of Commons.

Johnson also said that any divergence across the UK on lockdown measures should only be short-term.

He told the House of Commons: “The government is today submitting to the House a plan which is conditional and dependent as always on the common sense and observance of the British people and on continual reassessment of the data.”

“That picture varies across the regions and home nations of the United Kingdom, requiring a flexible response,” he said. 

“Different parts of the UK may need to stay in full lockdown longer but any divergence should only be short-term because as prime minister of the UK, I am in no doubt that we must defeat this threat and face the challenge of recovery together.”

Guidance

The guidance, published this afternoon, says that people should wear face coverings in some settings, and suggests that people could link up with one other household in a “bubble”.

The new document said one household may in future be allowed to join up with one other as a way of easing the long-term restrictions on people’s lives.

It comes as the latest figures show that the number of deaths involving Covid-19 that have been registered across hospitals in the UK has risen by 210 to 32,065. Along with a further 3,964 deaths also separately confirmed today by NHS England, it brings the total there to over 36,000.

It also comes after a degree of confusion was caused due to the lack of detail provided on the plan by Johnson last night and the utterances of his foreign secretary Dominic Raab this morning

UK government scientific advisers have been asked to look at the model going forward as England gets set to live with social distancing measures in the long-term.

coronavirus-mon-may-11-2020 Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon. Source: House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

The plan

The plan sets out what the government sees as being possible now and what may be possible in the future.

It says:

– International travellers will be asked to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the country, either in accommodation of their choice or provided by the UK government if there are no other options.

–Its ambition is that all primary school children will be able to go to school for a month before the summer holidays.

– Non-essential retail could be able to open no earlier than 1 June if it can be proven they can keep people safe.

– Those who are shielding should continue to shield though it may become clear that those less at risk can be given more freedoms.

– The British government is examining “how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings”.

– Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces such as public transport and some shops. They should not be worn by the under-twos, young children who will find them hard to manage and those with respiratory conditions.

– Those who are not in the shielded group but who are more vulnerable to Covid-19, such as the over-70s, should “continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded.”

– Cultural and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors for broadcast from next month, avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.

– No earlier than 4 July, the ambition is to “open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons), hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas). They will need to meet “Covid secure” guidelines and some may not meet the requirement.

The document also sets out how restrictions may be lifted and implemented on a regional basis, depending on local levels of infection.

The document says: “The government may adjust restrictions in some regions before others: a greater risk in Cornwall should not lead to disproportionate restrictions in Newcastle if the risk is lower.”

Questioning the plan in the House of Commons this afternoon, Labour leader Keir Starmer questioned when guidelines would appear for people returning to work on public transport. 

“Are they coming tomorrow ready for Wednesday or later in the week because otherwise people will be using public transport, operators required to operate to guidelines that don’t yet exist,” Starmer said.

Starmer told the House of Commons the country needs “clarity” from the government.

“What the country needs at this time is clarity and reassurance and at the moment both are in pretty short supply and at the heart of the problem it seems is that the prime minister made a statement last night before the plan was written, or at least finalised,” he said.

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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