UK PM sees ‘nothing’ in Covid data to stop lockdown easing

UK PM sees ‘nothing’ in Covid data to stop lockdown easing
UK PM sees ‘nothing’ in Covid data to stop lockdown easing

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads a virtual news conference on the Covid-19 pandemic inside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain January 27, 2021. — Geoff Pugh/Pool via Reuters

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LONDON, March 28 — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed yesterday to stick with his planned unwinding of a coronavirus lockdown, relishing the prospect of a pint and a haircut even as scientists warn of new variants.

Launching his Conservative party’s campaign for local elections in May, Johnson said his government’s mass vaccination drive and pro-business policies would hasten economic recovery, “jab by jab, job by job”.

Wales became the first UK nation to lift travel restrictions yesterday, since the latest round of curbs took hold to combat a deadly second wave of Covid-19 over winter.

From tomorrow, England’s stay-at-home order will also be relaxed to enable groups of up to six people to meet outside. The government plans to allow outdoors drinking in pub gardens, and non-essential retail such as hairdressers, from April 12.

Johnson conceded that a third wave of Covid-19 was sweeping Europe and could well hit Britain in about three weeks.

But the “key difference” to last year was that any rise in infections and hospitalisations should be “sufficiently mitigated” by the vaccine rollout.

“And as things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love,” he told a virtual Conservative event.

The mop-haired prime minister added: “In just a few days’ time, I’m finally going to be able to go to the barbers.

“But more important than that, I’m going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.” 

Biden talks

Britain’s vaccination drive has now given at least a first dose to more than 29 million adults, and the government plans to complete the phase by the end of July.

But it remains on guard against more infectious coronavirus variants, such as ones that emerged in Brazil and South Africa.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told The Telegraph newspaper that the government could start delivering new booster doses in September for priority groups, including the over-70s and health workers.

He said ministers were expecting up to eight vaccines to be available by the autumn — up from two currently on offer in the UK — including one that could protect against three different Covid variants in a single jab.

Mike Tildesley, one of the government’s scientific advisors, stressed the need for vigilance.

“In the shorter term, we are worried about new variants,” he told Times Radio.

“But if we can keep these out for a longer period of time, enough time for these boosters to be developed, then that should hopefully protect us as we go into the winter.” 

Britain meanwhile has been at loggerheads with Europe over supplies of jabs from the UK-based company AstraZeneca, which the EU said Friday must “catch up” on its deliveries to the bloc before exporting doses elsewhere.

In phone talks with US President Joe Biden on Friday, Johnson “stressed that global access to vaccines will be key to defeating the pandemic”, according to a Downing Street spokesperson. — AFP

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