UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said that he is very optimistic about meeting a June 21 timeline for most legally imposed coronavirus lockdown restrictions to be removed as part of a four-step roadmap he tabled in Parliament.
During a visit to a school in London, Johnson was asked how confident he was about keeping to his roadmap, which has been designed to ease England out of the current strict stay-at-home lockdown in phases starting from March 8.
With the reopening of schools set as the first step, greater flexibility of different households mixing will be introduced from the end of March with most shops and businesses set to be reopened in two stages from April 12 and then May 17 as part of what Johnson has dubbed as a cautious approach.
"I'm hopeful but obviously nothing can be guaranteed and it all depends on the way we continue to be prudent and continue to follow the guidance in each stage. That's why it's so important to proceed in the cautious way that we are. I think people do understand it, they can see the logic of what we're trying to do.
But genuinely, because of the immense possibilities now of the vaccination rollout, because science has given us this way of creating a whole shield around our population, we can really look at that June 21 date with some optimism. I'm very optimistic we'll be able to get there," he said.
Addressing the House of Commons and later a Downing Street press conference on Monday, he had stressed that the decision at each stage of lifting lockdown restrictions will be based on data not dates as part of a focus on keeping coronavirus infection rates under control.
Some members of his own Conservative Party have complained that the roadmap does not remove restrictions fast enough, while some scientists have expressed scepticism about whether it would in fact be possible to remove all restrictions from June 21.
Johnson acknowledged the conflicting points of view on the pace of reopening but reiterated the five-week gap set between each stage of the roadmap was the right pace as it gives experts the time to review the impact on infection rates.
"Some people will say we are going too fast, some people will say we're going too slow. I think the balance is right it's a cautious but an irreversible approach which is what I think people want to see, he said.
The Prime Minister has also promised a review into the use of so-called vaccine passports as certificates to allow people greater freedoms, both within the country at large venues and while travelling.
"This is an area where we're looking at a novelty for our country," he said.
There are complex issues we need to work out. We can't be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, can't have the vaccine there might be medical reasons why people can't have the vaccine, or some people may genuinely refuse to have one. Now I think that's a mistake, I think everybody should have a vaccine but we need to thrash all this out," he said.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will be conducting the review into the use of such COVID certification and is due to report back before the fourth and last stage of easing lockdown restrictions on June 21.
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