Social distancing and masks here to stay, Raab hints

Some social distancing and mask-wearing rules here to stay, Raab warns

‘We want to get life back as close to normal as possible – but they’ll still need to be some safeguards’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 02 May 2021 10:26

Some social distancing and mask-wearing rules will stay in place as life returns only “close to normal” in June, Dominic Raab has suggested.

The government is exploring what “extra safeguards” will be needed, even when the end of the current roadmap is reached on 21 June, the foreign secretary said.

Last week, Boris Johnson said there is now a “very good chance” of ending all legal coronavirus restrictions next month, in what was his most bullish assessment yet.

But Mr Raab struck a far more cautious tone, saying: “We’re looking at what extra safeguards, caveats, need to be put in place.

“We want to get to a position, at the end of June, where we can get life back as close to normal as possible, but they’ll still need to be some safeguards in place.”

When asked to explain what he meant, the foreign secretary added: “It will be around distancing, maybe there’ll be something around masks, but I don’t really want to pre-judge. Those are just some of the options.”

Mr Raab also ducked an explosive warning from the Scottish Tory leader that the prime minister will have to quit if he has broken the ministerial code over his lavish flat makeover.

Asked if Mr Johnson should resign if rules were broken – the same demand he made of Nicola Sturgeon over the Alex Salmond controversy – Douglas Ross had replied: “Of course.”

However, Mr Raab said the prime minister’s fate was “hypothetical speculation”, while insisting he had “followed the codes of conduct”.

“I think the right thing for me to do is respect the integrity of those reviews and let them run their course – rather than commenting that what may or may not be found,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Programme.

Scientific advisers are optimistic that infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths will continue to fall, allowing an end to emergency coronavirus laws on Midsummer’s Day.

This would allow the return of mass gatherings, nightclubs, festivals, conferences and other events that did not reopen last summer.

However, what is less certain is whether it will be possible to return completely to normal contact – without Covid-status certificates or reduced numbers in public places.

A review of social distancing is due to report on whether restrictions such as the “one-metre-plus” rule will need to be maintained beyond the summer.

Mr Raab repeatedly referred to lifting “almost all social restrictions” and said the government would continue to be “evidence driven”.

Before the decisions are made for 21 June, the government is almost certain to confirm the return of limited indoor mixing on 17 May – an announcement expected a week earlier.

And it will lift the ban on overseas travel, the all-important list of “green list” countries – where quarantine on return will not be needed – due out in the next few days.

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