Sajid Javid, the UK’s new health secretary, has said the country’s reopening won’t be brought forward but that July 19 is the “end of the line”.
Speaking at the House of Commons today after taking over from Matt Hancock as health secretary, Javid said the government had to be realistic that the country wouldn’t completely rid itself of the coronavirus and would have to find a way to live with it.
With that, he said he believes all lockdown measures should be lifted as planned next month, after the country’s reopening was pushed back earlier this month. The milestone would be “the start of an exciting new journey” for the country, he said.
“We owe it to the British people, who have sacrificed so much, to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can and not to wait a moment longer than we need to,” Javid said in his address.
“With the numbers heading in the right direction, all while we protect more and more people each day, July 19 remains our target date.”
He added: “The Prime Minister has called it out ‘terminus date’. For me, July 19 is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country.”
Javid also insisted that when restrictions do finally lift, they will be “irreversible” with “no going back”.
The health secretary’s comments come after Boris Johnson said earlier today (June 28) that he was confident that July 19 would be the ‘terminus date’ for when the UK can return “to life as it were before COVID” as much as possible.
The prime minister told broadcasters: “So what I’m saying to people, is it’s just another few more weeks to get those jabs in and then I think there is really an increasingly good chance – a very good chance indeed – that July 19 will be the terminus date.”
However, Downing Street was quick to insist that any decisions made on lifting restrictions would be driven by “data not dates”.
Last week (June 25), it was revealed that just 28 people who attended pilot events researching the impact of large-scale gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic tested positive for the virus.
Events Research Programme (ERP) scientists described the findings as “reassuring” but warned the results should be taken with “extreme caution” due to only 15 per cent of participants taking PCR tests after the events.
They said the low uptake of PCR testing before and after the nine different pilot tests in the April-May first phase, which ranged from the FA Cup Final to the BRIT Awards and the World Snooker Championships, meant it was “challenging to determine” the way in which the disease was transmitted. However, scientists pressed on the fact that no substantial outbreaks” were connected to the events.
A number of live events representatives have since called on the government to reopen the industry being there were no substantial outbreaks at any of the pilot events, including UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin.
“We will continue talking to the government to get as many live events back on stage as possible from the expected July 19 reopening date to deliver a great British summer of music,” said Njoku-Goodwin.
Festivals including Truck and Kendall Calling announced the cancellation of their July events earlier this month, following the delay to the government’s final exit out of lockdown restrictions, lack of published data and general lack of guidance. A new survey revealed that half of UK festivals have now been cancelled this year.