Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed legal restrictions due to Covid in England would be lifted from July 19 on Monday but insisted “This is not the end of Covid.”
Johnson stepped back from his previous insistence that the lifting of restrictions would be “irreversible” and urged people “don’t be demob happy”.
He warned: “We cannot resume life as it was before Covid. It is vital we proceed with caution. This pandemic is not over. “
Johnson made clear border restrictions would remain for the foreseeable future, saying: “We will keep our tough Covid policy at our borders, with quarantine for travellers from red-list countries.”
Asked whether he stuck by previous assertions that the relaxation of restrictions would be irreversible, Johnson said: “I hope the road map is irreversible, but we have to be cautious. We want people to remember this pandemic is not over.
“We’ll keep all the data under constant review, probably into next year. We must rule nothing out. But at the moment we think if we’re cautious we can continue.”
The prime minister confirmed: “We expect people to wear face coverings in crowded places. And we will keep test and trace.”
He cautioned against an immediate end to working from home, saying: “We don’t expect the whole country to return to their desks – we will set out guidance to businesses on how to return to work gradually.”
Johnson argued: “We want people to think carefully about the end of legal restrictions and not tear the pants out of this. Don’t be demob happy. This is not the end of Covid. Think of others. Continue to think of the risks of transmission.
“Just because the legal restrictions have come off should not be taken as a signal for anyone to have a jubilee. This has got to be taken seriously. We have to take it slowly.
“This is only going to work if people are cautious about the way we do it.”
However, he also insisted now was the right time for a relaxation, arguing: “If we held off to September we would be doing this in the context of a great deal more risk.”
Chief medical adviser to the government Professor Chris Whitty suggested people should carry on “doing the things we’ve all been doing for a very long time”.
Sir Patrick Valance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, added: “There is an absolute necessity to continue to self-isolate if you test positive, and to take a test if you develop symptoms.”