Javid confirms July 19 unlocking but with face masks and ‘gradual’ return to offices

12 July 2021, 15:54 | Updated: 12 July 2021, 19:02

Sajid Javid speaks to MPs in the House of Commons
Sajid Javid speaks to MPs in the House of Commons. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Sajid Javid has confirmed England will move to Step 4 in the easing of coronavirus restrictions on July 19, saying: “If not now, when?"

The Health Secretary made the announcement as he updated MPs on coronavirus in the House of Commons on Monday.

He said: "We have looked closely at the data... and we firmly believe this is the right time to get our nation closer to normal life.

"So, we will move to the next stage of our road map on July 19.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson to address nation on July 19 unlocking in England

READ MORE: Face masks: Everything you need to know about new rules from July 19

"To those who say why take this step now, I say if not now when?

"There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus - whether we like it or not, coronavirus is not going away."

Mr Javid said the Government would publish a plan later showing the "safe and gradual approach" it is taking through summer, as he urged people to show "caution and personal responsibility".

He said:

  • It is "expected and recommended" that people should wear face coverings
  • People should return to work "gradually" if they are currently working from home
  • People should meet outside where possible
  • Businesses and large events are encouraged to use vaccine passports in high risk settings
  • There will be updated guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Restrictions will be reviewed in September to make sure "we are properly set up for the autumn and winter"

Mr Javid pointed to the success of the vaccination programme in England, saying: "It has prevented between 7.5 million and 8.9 million infections, it's prevented some 46,000 hospitalisations and around 30,000 people losing their lives all because of the protection vaccines can bring."

He also insisted the Government will "come down hard at the moment we detect a new variant" as he outlined why the Government would progress with easing restrictions.

But he reiterated cases are rising and could reach 100,000 a day later in the summer - with the average number of daily cases currently more than 26,000, which has doubled over the past 11 days.

The Health Secretary said hospital admissions are also rising but said they are lower in this wave compared to a previous wave, noting people over the age of 65 - who are more likely to be double-jabbed - accounted for 31% of Covid admissions last week compared to 61% in January.

He said the Government will "stay vigilant" and keep a close eye on the data, adding: "On the basis of the evidence in front of us, we do not believe that infection rates will put unsustainable pressure on the NHS."

Mr Javid went on: "Even as we look to ease restrictions, we will maintain tough measures at the borders and we will expand our capacity for genomic sequencing... so that we can come down hard at the moment we detect a new variant."

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, told the Commons the Government's plan to continue with the road map could lead to more Covid-19 variants, likening it to the Health Secretary "putting his foot down on the accelerator while throwing the seat belt off".

Mr Ashworth said: "The Secretary of State has taken a high risk, indeed fatalistic, approach. Trying to guess what might happen in the winter, deciding that infections are going up anyway.

"Instead of caution he is putting his foot down the on the accelerator while throwing the seat belt off."

He added: "That means potentially thousands suffering debilitating long Covid. It means as more cases arise potentially more escape and the threat of new more transmissible variant emerging."

It comes as, of 9am on Monday, a further 34,471 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the UK.

The Government also said a further six people had died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 128,431.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 153,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.