Boris Johnson has said he will stick to his timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions, pledging to remain “cautious” in easing the lockdown.
The Prime Minister this week set out a plan for incrementally reducing measures over the coming months in England, with the aim of scrapping all restrictions by June.
On a visit to Accrington Academy in Lancashire on Thursday, Mr Johnson said the dates he set out continued to be the target “towards which people can work” given that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 remained “high”.
According to Government data, there are 16,800 people in UK hospitals being treated for coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Johnson made the comments when asked whether there was “wiggle room” to lift lockdown quicker if emerging data suggested infections and hospital admissions were falling faster than predicted as vaccines were rolled out.
He said: “I think it’s very important to have a timetable that is sensible, that is cautious, but one that is also irreversible. And that’s the virtue of the timetable we have set out.
“Everybody knows the dates: March 8, kids back in school; April 12, shops reopen; May 17, hospitality reopens; June 21, we hope, if all things go according to plan, a general reopening.
“And I think those are a series of dates towards which people can work, and I think that the people of this country would rather trade some haste for some certainty, and that’s why we’ve done it in the way that we have and we will still continue to stick to that plan.”
Despite promising early information about the impact vaccines have on reducing transmission of the virus, the Prime Minister said case numbers were still too high to accelerate easing the lockdown.
“We’re sticking to our plan. Obviously we will continue to look at data but the data currently still shows, as you know, that the incidence of the disease, sadly, remains high,” he added.
“I’m afraid the numbers of people in hospital are still not far below the peak that they were in April last year.
“So we think that the road map that we’ve set out is a good and balanced one for us to get on a journey that is cautious but, as I say, irreversible as well.”
It comes as Downing Street appeared to confirm a minor addition to the road map, with pubs to be permitted to serve takeaway alcohol again from April 12 to coincide with beer gardens being allowed to reopen.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “Outdoor hospitality is permitted so I believe it would be the case that takeaway alcohol will be permitted.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe