BORIS Johnson still sees no reason to push back the June 21 end of lockdown despite calls from scientists for a delay, Downing St said today.
The PM has been urged to forge ahead with binning all restrictions later this month amid mounting concerns over the spread of the Indian variant.
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Boris Johnson is being urged to stick to his roadmapCredit: AFP
Tory MPs and business chiefs are pleading with him to stick to his guns and keep to the final date in his roadmap.
They say many small firms including shops, pubs, and restaurants are struggling to survive due to the current curbs on how they can operate.
And they insist there is no reason to put off fully opening up the country thanks to the success of the vaccine rollout.
Some boffins have called for this month’s great unlocking to be delayed by a month.
And today a minister warned the fight against Covid is “not like a movie where you kill the baddie” and then “roll credits”.
Ex Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the PM must fight back against “an organised push by a group of scientists to stop June 21”.
The influential backbencher said the low numbers of deaths and hospitalisations means waiting any longer isn’t justified.
He told TalkRadio: “It really looks to me very coordinated and quite deliberate.
“The whole idea behind it is the hypothetical sense somehow some people will not be able to have the vaccine take effect.
“These figures are calculated on the back on an envelope. There is no actual fact that says we shouldn’t unlock on the 21st.
“We were always told that the most important feature of all of this is to protect the most vulnerable.
“We have now double-dosed pretty near 50% of the population and that encompasses all the most vulnerable.
“The rest are either much younger or for one reason or another chose not to have the vaccine.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the June 21 unlocking should go ahead as plannedCredit: AFP
There were anti-lockdown protests in London on SaturdayCredit: Getty
Sir Iain said the existence of the furlough scheme means people’s “attitude towards work and life is skewed very badly”.
He said: “We need to get some balance back into people’s thinking at the moment. We are very unbalanced which is a very dangerous place to be.
“What we’ve got now is a bunch of scientists obsessed with one single issue to the detriment of absolutely everything else.
“If the economy doesn’t move the poorest in society will suffer the most, they will be unable to navigate their way through.”
The PM’s spokesman said: “We have received the best scientific evidence and data throughout the pandemic and that has guided our decisions.
“That hasn’t changed, and we will continue to assess the information as you move through the roadmap.
“The PM has said on a number of occasions that we haven’t seen anything in the data.
“But we will continue to look at the data, we will continue to look at the latest scientific evidence as we move towards June 21.”
And Sir Iain’s calls were echoed by other senior Tory MPs.
Former cabinet minister John Redwood said: “Just get on with relaxing the lockdown.
“Vaccines have brought the serious cases and deaths right down which is what matters.”
Long queues developed outside vaccine centres across the country todayCredit: LNP
Britain is in a race to jab as many people as possible as the Indian variant spreadsCredit: LNP
Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group, said evidence shows “the vaccines we have are very effective in stopping serious disease”.
He added: “If that remains the case, there would be no reason why we wouldn’t be able to open up fully on June 21.
And former Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “The tendency to suppress alternative opinions has got worse during the Covid crisis.
“If we are really to be a science superpower we have to find a way of allowing much greater freedom of opinion in science, which in turn will drive much more innovation.”
Business chiefs have also urged Boris to stick to the grand reopening later this month.
Today figures emerged showing a quarter of pubs have still failed to reopen after lockdown because they can’t make any money under current curbs.
The British Beer & Pub Association warned sales were set to be down a third yesterday, even with the balmy Bank Holiday weather, due to capacity limits.
Kate Nicholls, boss of industry group UK Hospitality, said: “This is why June 21 is so important.
“Many businesses cannot yet open and all others are not viable with restrictions remaining.”
Business minister Paul Scully warned the fight against Covid isn’t over
British Chambers of Commerce chief Ruby McGregor-Smith added: “It cannot be said that the UK is still in the grip of a pandemic.
“At some point we need to learn how to operate a fully open economy, while still protecting public health. That time is now.
“Rather than rolling back on the roadmap, the Government should be focused on enabling firms to operate while living alongside the virus and putting the UK back on a path to recovery and renewal.
“This starts by providing absolute clarity about the conditions under which firms will be able to operate after 21 June, and ensuring this is as close to ‘normal’ as possible.”
Greg Parmley, head of the live music trade association, also pleaded with the Government to let clubs and mass events return this month.
He said: “The sector is completely geared up for a return from 21 June, from festivals to small venues.
“The Government’s own events research programme has shown that music events can be held safely, with almost no Covid impact, so there is no reason to keep us closed any longer.”
At some point we need to learn how to operate a fully open economy
British Chambers of Commerce
Prof Robert Dingwall, a member of the NERVTAG advisory group, said ministers should “push on” with the roadmap.
He told Times Radio: “There is no realistic prospect of the NHS facing the sorts of pressures that it faced in January and February.”
Business minister Paul Scully said he was “cautiously optimistic” the unlocking could go ahead as planned.
But he warned no decision has been taken yet and No 10 wants to avoid the “stop start nature” of last year’s restrictions.
He said: “It’s not like a movie that you kill the baddie suddenly end of, roll credits, Coronavirus is over. We will be living with this for some time.
“So the more we can do in the meantime until we get to June 21 to stop transmission then that will keep us on that roadmap.
“I’m cautious, but cautiously optimistic. We need to make sure, we’re making such an important decision, that we get it absolutely right.
“One thing that we saw last year, before Christmas, was the stop start nature, which just didn’t work for businesses and cost them more.
“So we’ve got to get it absolutely right. People’s jobs and livelihoods depend on it, but we also are making sure that we’re protecting lives.”
But he insisted ministers do appreciate the huge strains many businesses are still under due to the lockdown.
He added: “It is a worry. The fact is that hospitality businesses in particular are minimising losses at the moment.
“You can see the crowds around pubs and restaurants, but that doesn’t mean they’re at full capacity by any stretch of the imagination.
“That’s why from an economic point of view, they’re really keen to get open. But we’ll only do that when it’s safe and when it’s appropriate to do so.”