Covid: 1m plus rule could end from 21 June, says Johnson

Shoppers queuing outside a shop in Manchester on 12 April

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There is a “good chance” the 1m plus social distancing rule can be scrapped on 21 June in England, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said the results of the vaccine rollout are “really starting to show up in the epidemiology” – but any change would depend on the data.

He also suggested there could be some “opening up” of foreign travel on 17 May.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer agreed that caution was necessary.

During a campaign visit to Hartlepool, on Teesside, the prime minister said that – “as things stand, and the way things are going” with the vaccine rollout – distancing could end when England reaches the final step of its roadmap out of lockdown.

Mr Johnson said 50 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered. That includes more than 34 million people who have had a first dose and more than 15 million who have had a second, according to the latest government figures.

He said he felt as though the next stage of reopening on 17 May – which covers indoor hospitality, entertainment and possibly foreign travel – would “be good”.

“I think we have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the 1m plus from 21 June,” he added.

“That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet. We have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress, we have got to look at where we get to with the disease. But that’s what it feels like to me right now.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said any easing of social distancing measures would have to be “cautious and careful”.

“All of us want to see the restrictions eased but also want to make sure we don’t go into another lockdown,” he said.

“I will listen to what scientists say – there are a number of weeks to run until 21 June. I hope we get to situation we can ease restrictions but have got to be led by science.”

The British Beer and Pub Association said the prime minister’s comments offered the sector “hope of a return to normality and viability”.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Given pubs are financially unviable under the current restrictions they face, being able to reopen without any restrictions at all from 21 June is going to be vital to their survival.”

She added: “Our recovery only begins when the restrictions are removed.”

Speaking before Mr Johnson’s comments, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said recommencing unrestricted trading on 21 June would be “critical” and would allow companies to “come off life support”.

“We urge the government to confirm reopening dates and these plans at the earliest opportunity, which will boost confidence and allow companies to step up planning and bring staff back,” she said.

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