Dominic Raab rejects calls to speed up lockdown exit

Dominic Raab today admitted that some rules on wearing face masks and social distancing could remain in place beyond the final step in the Government’s lockdown exit roadmap on June 21. 

The Foreign Secretary warned ‘there will still need to be some safeguards in place’ after that point in comments which sparked an immediate backlash from Tory MPs and the hospitality industry. 

Pub bosses described the comments as a ‘red flag’ and warned firms need ‘certainty’ now on the terms on which they will be allowed to reopen heading into the summer. 

Conservative MPs said retaining the wearing of face masks and social distancing in some settings like public transport could be acceptable. 

But they argued all restrictions must be lifted on June 21 when it comes to pubs, bars and restaurants as they accused ministers of being ‘hyper cautious’.  

Mr Raab this morning rejected calls to speed up the roadmap as he insisted ‘we are very close now to really turning the corner’ in the battle against coronavirus. 

The success of the UK’s vaccination programme and falling infection numbers have prompted demands for the Government to bring forward its reopening dates. 

But the Foreign Secretary urged people to be patient as he insisted June 21 is not far away and ‘we are nearly there’. 

He argued that ‘taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go’ to avoid undoing the progress made during the national shutdown. 

He also offered a significant incentive to Britons to stick to the current timetable as he promised that on June 21 ‘almost all social restrictions will be lifted’. 

His comments came after official statistics showed that UK coronavirus deaths had dropped by more than three quarters in a week after seven fatalities were reported yesterday.








Dominic Raab today rejected calls to speed up the nation's exit from lockdown as he insisted 'we are very close now to really turning the corner' in the battle against coronavirus

Dominic Raab today rejected calls to speed up the nation's exit from lockdown as he insisted 'we are very close now to really turning the corner' in the battle against coronavirus

Dominic Raab today rejected calls to speed up the nation’s exit from lockdown as he insisted ‘we are very close now to really turning the corner’ in the battle against coronavirus

The Foreign Secretary this morning urged people to be patient as he insisted June 21 - the final step in the roadmap - is is not far away and 'we are nearly there'. People are pictured enjoying Friday evening in Soho, central London on April 30

The Foreign Secretary this morning urged people to be patient as he insisted June 21 - the final step in the roadmap - is is not far away and 'we are nearly there'. People are pictured enjoying Friday evening in Soho, central London on April 30

The Foreign Secretary this morning urged people to be patient as he insisted June 21 – the final step in the roadmap – is is not far away and ‘we are nearly there’. People are pictured enjoying Friday evening in Soho, central London on April 30

Mr Raab argued that 'taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go' to avoid undoing the progress made during lockdown. People are pictured walking in Whitstable in Kent yesterday

Mr Raab argued that 'taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go' to avoid undoing the progress made during lockdown. People are pictured walking in Whitstable in Kent yesterday

Mr Raab argued that ‘taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go’ to avoid undoing the progress made during lockdown. People are pictured walking in Whitstable in Kent yesterday








Britain’s families will get the go-ahead for summer holidays in popular European hotspots before the end of May

Families are set to get the go-ahead to take summer holidays in some popular European hotspots before the end of the month, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The Government is expected to announce as early as this week the first countries that Britons can visit without having to quarantine – but the list is only believed to include a handful of destinations.

Sources say the so-called ‘green list’ will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe – will be announced before the end of this month. For much of the country, the half-term break starts on May 31.

Under the traffic-light system for foreign travel, those returning from green countries will not need to quarantine but will have to take two Covid tests – one before they return to the UK, which can be either a lateral flow or PCR test, and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive back.

Those who return from countries designated as either amber or red will still have to quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, and have three compulsory tests. Government officials are debating whether to stick to previous policy plans of having all children under 11 exempt from having to take the tests.

The majority of European countries are expected to be given amber status this week, but there is optimism that some will turn green when the list is next updated.

The ban on overseas holidays will end on May 17, along with the threat of fines for attempting to travel without a permitted reason.

Ahead of the cautious return to international travel, the Government will shortly unveil a new slogan ‘Travel Safely, Plan Ahead’. It will replace the current ‘Minimise Travel’ guidance. 

An announcement by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of which countries have been given which colour is thought to have been pencilled in for Friday, although it could slip to early next week. Ahead of it, the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which provides evidence-based analysis to the Government, will assess the latest data from around the world.

 

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Mr Raab’s comments came as: 

  • The Foreign Secretary said that ‘all the different contingencies’ are being looked at when asked about a reported plan to offer vaccines to secondary school pupils as soon as September. 
  • Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said it is ‘very much an open question’ whether secondary school pupils will need to be vaccinated. 
  • Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, backed the idea of vaccinating secondary school pupils as she said ‘if the current trials are promising, then I do think (vaccinating children from September) will happen’. 
  • Labour welcomed plans to trial the use of rapid lateral flow testing to make it easier for people to avoid quarantine after contact with someone with a positive test.

The next step of Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit roadmap will see further rules loosened on May 17 before a fourth and final step on June 21. 

The Government is hoping that the June 21 date will herald a return to something close to normal life. 

But the UK’s vaccination drive and falling death numbers have piled the pressure on the Government to move more quickly. 

Mr Raab today defended the pace of the exit from lockdown as he was grilled by Sophy Ridge on Sky News on why people are still banned from hugging their loved ones. 

The Foreign Secretary said: ‘Look, there is all of the risks that come with this that we have just got to gauge very carefully.

‘On the 17th of May we will take another, the third step in the roadmap if you like, we will ease up, there will be more opportunities for households to mix inside, subject to the caveats on that and then come the 21st of June which is, we are already into May, will have almost all the social restrictions that will be lifted.

‘So what I would say to people at this stage is I know people are hankering just to go a bit faster but actually we’ve, I think, feel vindicated that taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go and then we can assess all the data, all the evidence that comes back and make sure that we are not unpicking the gains that have been made.

‘So we are very close now to really turning the corner and I think we still need to be careful as we go because as I said, we don’t want to see the gains lost and the sacrifices that have been made undone.’

Questioned on the speed of loosening rules and told that seven Covid-related deaths were reported yesterday, Mr Raab said: ‘The question you ask takes us straight into vaccine certificates and all the rest of that which has been very contentious for various reasons.

‘What I would say is actually, if you take a look at the big picture, by the time we get to the 21st of June, almost all social restrictions will be lifted so there is only a little bit more time to go.

‘But it is right to make sure that we do it in a careful way and I think the public support that.

‘They have supported the approach by and large, I think to their great credit, and we are at the end, really, of the process if you like.

‘We have got two more steps to take but I do think given the rollout of the vaccine that is exciting it has got people thinking about not just the social interaction but yeah, of course, things like hugging your loved ones that you haven’t been able to do for a while.

Which rules are due to be relaxed on May 17 and June 21?

Step Three – No earlier than May 17

– Most social contact rules outdoors will be lifted but gatherings of more than 30 people will still be banned

– Rule of six or two households rule will apply to indoor mixing

– Indoor hospitality and entertainment venues like cinemas can reopen

– Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings

– Up to 10,000 people will be able to attend large outdoor seated venues

– International travel will return, based on the new traffic light system

Step Four – No earlier than June 21

– All legal limits on social contact will be removed

– Nightclubs could reopen

– Restrictions on large events could be lifted

– Hope to remove all remaining limits on weddings and other life events

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‘But I do think we just need to make sure that in the last lap if you like that we are careful and we don’t lose the gains that we have made.’

He added: ‘The point I am making is actually that 21st of June fourth step out of lockdown is not far away now so I think if we just hang on, keep being guided by the science and evidence, measure the progress we have made carefully, we are nearly there.’

Reports suggest that the Government is considering vaccinating secondary school children in the autumn.  

Asked if that was the case, Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘It is not something we have made a decision on. What we are doing as we come through step three and step four and with the positive progress we have made, we are looking at what extra safeguards, caveats need to be put in place.

‘Also looking at once we have done cohorts one to nine, which are the adult population, the most vulnerable, what we might do then because we want to get to the position at the end of June when we can get life back as close to normal as possible but there will still need to be some safeguards in place.

‘That is one of the tools that we will look at, or one of the options that we will look at, but no decision has been made.’

Asked by Mr Marr what kind of safeguards could be retained beyond June 21, Mr Raab said: ‘I don’t want to prejudge it. 

‘It will look at the things in the round, it will be particularly, I think it will be around distancing, maybe there will be something around masks, but I don’t really want to prejudge. Those are just some of the options.’

Mr Raab’s comments on face masks and social distancing came after Government sources suggested the ‘one metre plus’ rule will be dropped from June 21. 

A source said: ‘We will be able to go pretty far on abolishing social distancing.’ 

However, businesses could be encouraged to keep in place some measures, such as glass screens.

Hospitality bosses said Mr Raab’s comments were a ‘red flag’ as firms try to plan for the future and recover from repeated lockdowns. 

Kate Nicholls from the UK Hospitality industry body told MailOnline: ‘June 21 is a critical moment for us. This is the point where hospitality businesses were looking to start breaking even again and turning to the corner to hopefully begin making profit.

‘So this is crucial for us – because the industry has been through 14 months of making losses and 10 months with no money coming in at all.’

Ms Nicholls said in order to break even many hospitality businesses need to be freed from legal requirements on things like capacity limits and social distancing.

She said the prospect of social distancing and face mask rules going on beyond June 21 would create uncertainty within the industry.

Hospitality bosses said Mr Raab's comments on social distancing were a 'red flag' as firms try to plan for the future and recover from repeated lockdowns. Soho in central London is pictured on April 30

Hospitality bosses said Mr Raab's comments on social distancing were a 'red flag' as firms try to plan for the future and recover from repeated lockdowns. Soho in central London is pictured on April 30

Hospitality bosses said Mr Raab’s comments on social distancing were a ‘red flag’ as firms try to plan for the future and recover from repeated lockdowns. Soho in central London is pictured on April 30

Pubs, bars and restaurants in England are currently only allowed to open outdoors. Indoor hospitality is due to reopen from May 17. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1

Pubs, bars and restaurants in England are currently only allowed to open outdoors. Indoor hospitality is due to reopen from May 17. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1

Pubs, bars and restaurants in England are currently only allowed to open outdoors. Indoor hospitality is due to reopen from May 17. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1

The end of the 10-day isolation rule? New trial will give daily lateral flow tests to close contacts of people with Covid so they can carry on their normal lives if they test negative

Ten day self-isolation rules for those who have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid could be replaced by a scheme of daily lateral flow tests.

A new trial is being set up to see if a daily testing regime could be an effective alternative to automatic quarantine rules.  

Daily lateral flow tests will be given to as many as 40,000 people who have a positive Covid-19 contact in the Government-backed research announced on Sunday.

Instead of the 10 days of quarantine currently required, the participants will be sent a week’s worth of tests and will be able to go about their lives as before, as long as the results are negative.

The trial – across England – may provide greater evidence to reduce the length of time contacts of positive cases need to isolate, under efforts to restart social lives and reopen the economy.

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She said: ‘This is a red flag for hospitality. The positive news that we have had around the vaccine efficiency and its impact on transmission have been a cause of hope and optimism for businesses that restrictions could be lifted on June 21.

‘But we have still not had any certainty about May 17 – when pubs and restaurants could be allowed to open indoors – and on June 21.

‘Businesses need that certainty to plan ahead. And it filters down to the employees too, particularly when you are asking them to come back but at the same time you can’t promise them you will be able to open.’

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: ‘The Prime Minister said in February he was “very optimistic” that all restrictions would end on 21 June.

‘Since then the results from the vaccination programme have been far better than the government or SAGE expected.

‘The Prime Minister said only five days ago that there is “a very good chance” all restrictions will end on 21 June.

‘Most people will have taken the Prime Minister at his word and will find it difficult to understand a flip flop at this late stage.’

One Tory MP told MailOnline that the continued use of face masks in certain settings like public transport could be acceptable ‘for a time’. 

But they said continued social distancing of any kind in hospitality settings would be unacceptable and a red line for many Conservative backbenchers. 

They said: ‘I think it is [a red line]. If you are a publican it would be extremely difficult to operate.’

Another Tory MP said Mr Raab’s comments suggested the Government is being ‘hyper cautious’. 

It remains unclear exactly what rules could remain in place beyond June 21, with Government scientists known to be pushing to keep the wearing of face masks and social distancing.

Many Tory MPs are adamant that all rules should be scrapped, citing increasingly positive data relating to the pandemic. 

The number of new Covid cases fell slightly to 1,907 yesterday from last Saturday’s 2,061 as the further easing of lockdown rules looks set to go ahead as planned on May 17.

The seven deaths announced yesterday mark a drop on the 15 recorded last Saturday, demonstrating a continued steady decline in fatalities. 








Office for National Statistics data suggested the total number of infections is now lower than at any point since early September and infections have been falling consistently for five weeks.  

Experts said the data ‘should be celebrated’ and were the first proof that, despite the reopening of outdoor hospitality and allowing the rule of six on social gatherings earlier this month, there was still ‘no evidence of an increased transmission risk’.

Meanwhile, Government data up to April 30 shows that 49,287,257 Covid-19 jabs have been given in the UK so far – 34,346,273 of which are first doses.

A further 129,657 people received their first dose yesterday, while 405,456 more Britons had their second. 

It came as the Government announced a new trial which could see ten-day self-isolation rules for people who have been in contact with someone who has a positive test replaced by a scheme of daily lateral flow tests. 

The trial will seek to establish if a daily testing regime could be an effective alternative to automatic quarantine rules.  

Daily lateral flow tests will be given to as many as 40,000 people who have a positive Covid-19 contact in the Government-backed research announced today.

Instead of the 10 days of quarantine currently required, the participants will be sent a week’s worth of tests and will be able to go about their lives as before, as long as the daily results are negative.

The trial – across England – may provide greater evidence to reduce the length of time contacts of positive cases need to isolate, under efforts to restart social lives and reopen the economy.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This new pilot could help shift the dial in our favour by offering a viable alternative to self-isolation for people who are contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, and one that would allow people to carry on going to work and living their lives.’ 

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