Hailing the University of Oxford’s success on the Covid-19 vaccine as a “wonderful British scientific achievement”, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said that for the first time since the “wretched” coronavirus took hold, people can see a route out of the pandemic.
Outlining post-lockdown measures to come into effect from December 3, Johnson, who is in self-isolation in Downing Street, told the House of Commons virtually that developments in vaccines, treatment and testing mean that the “scientific cavalry is now in sight”.
He said, “By the spring, these advances should reduce the need for the restrictions we have endured in 2020 and make the whole concept of a Covid lockdown redundant. When that moment comes, it will have been made possible by the sacrifices of millions of people across the UK.
“I am acutely conscious that no other peacetime prime minister has asked so much of the British people and just as our country has risen to every previous trial, so it has responded this time… But the hard truth, Mr Speaker, is that we are not there yet. First, we must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control and squandering our hard-won gains.”
England’s month-long lockdown will end on December 2, with the other three UK constituents – Wales, Scotland the Northern Ireland – enforcing versions of local lockdowns and curbs.
New infections continued to remain at nearly three or four times (15,450) the peak of April-May, but the number of daily deaths is down (206), as of Monday evening, compared to the nearly 1,000 daily deaths earlier this year.
Johnson said that from December 3, parts of England will return to the earlier tiered alert system, but each tier will have tougher restrictions.
Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports will be allowed to resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector will reopen when the lockdown ends.
On the issue of allowing families to meet during Christmas, Johnson said, “This will be still a hard winter, Christmas cannot be normal, and there is a long road to spring… Mr Speaker, I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.”
“We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it. But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January,” he said.
Guidance on allowances and restrictions to be followed during Christmas will be announced later, he said, so that families could come together while at the same time minimising the risk of new Covid-19 infections.