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Lockdown lifting on 21 June threatened by ‘ambiguous’ data, Boris Johnson admits

‘What we need to work out is to what extent the vaccination programme has protected....the elderly and vulnerable against a new surge’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 02 June 2021 15:37 BST
Lockdown lifting threatened by ‘ambiguous’ data, Boris Johnson admits

Boris Johnson says the lifting of all Covid restrictions on 21 June is currently on track, but admitted the latest data is “ambiguous”.

“I can see nothing in the data at the moment that means we can’t go ahead with Step 4,” the prime minister said.

But he then added: “What we need to work out is to what extent the vaccination programme has protected enough of us, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, against a new surge – and there I'm afraid the data is still ambiguous.”

Mr Johnson was questioned amid a growing chorus of scientists urging him to slam the brakes on the roadmap, because of a surge of Covid infections and hospitalisations.

One of his four tests for lifting all restrictions – removing social distancing rules and allowing all venues to reopen – is that no new variant is taking root.

But Blackburn, Bolton and other places have been hit by the arrival of the Indian variant, now thought to be responsible for up to 75 per cent of new cases.

“We’ve got to be so cautious,” Mr Johnson said, from the garden of Downing Street, where he returned after a two-day weekend break with his new wife.

On rising infections, he said: "We always knew that was going to happen,”, because of the earlier, staged lifting of coronavirus curbs.

Adding that ministers and scientists were “interrogating all the data” in lengthy meetings, the prime minister said: “The best the scientists can say at the moment is we just need to give it a little bit longer.”

Mr Johnson was also strikingly cautious about whether more countries will be added to the ‘green list’ for quarantine-free travel, on Thursday.

“We've got to be cautious and we've got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary,” he said.

The prime minister was also quizzed on his £1.4bn education recovery plan, after it was revealed that the Treasury had blocked the £15bn package requested.

There would be “more coming through” to support children catching up from missed education during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

However, he insisted the promised intensive tutoring would “give parents the confidence that their child is going to get particular attention”, as well as “find potential in kids that may be missed in the back of the classroom”.

“What we want to do is support teachers – who may be brilliant teachers – who need to make a move to being head of sixth form or head of school,” Mr Johnson added.

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