UK PM Johnson says optimistic about fully reopening in June


FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic media briefing at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain February 22, 2021. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he was very optimistic that all COVID-19 restrictions in England would end on June 21, adding that the government would conduct a review of the use of vaccine certificates.

Johnson on Monday unveiled a plan for England that would keep some businesses closed until the summer, saying caution was needed to ensure there were no reversals on a “one-way street to freedom.”

“I am hopeful, but of course nothing can be guaranteed … I am very optimistic that we will be able to achieve the goal,” Johnson told broadcasters when asked about the June 21 date set for the end of restrictions.

With nearly 130,000 deaths, Britain has suffered the fifth-highest official death toll in the world from the pandemic, and its economy has seen its biggest crash in more than 300 years.

But in two months, the U.K. has already managed to get more than a quarter of its population on the first dose of vaccine – the fastest rollout in a major country.

Some in Johnson’s Conservative Party have questioned whether the timeline for reopening could have been faster, given the success of the U.K.’s vaccine rollout so far.

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock had said safety was the priority.

“We are all absolutely determined to get out of this as quickly as we safely can, but no quicker,” Hancock said on Sky News.

The roadmap indicates that restrictions on nightclubs and major events will be the last to be lifted on June 21, although the government has stressed that the reopening will be led by dates, not dates.

Johnson also said senior minister Michael Gove would lead a review to address the “scientific, moral, philosophical and ethical” issue of vaccination certificates for those who have received coronavirus vaccination, which could facilitate the reopening of entertainment and hospitality venues.

“There are deep and complex questions that we need to explore, ethical questions about what the role of government is in mandating that all people have this,” he said.

 

“We can’t discriminate against people who, for whatever reason, can’t get the vaccine. There may be medical reasons why people can’t get vaccinated … Some people really can refuse to get a vaccine.”

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