UK Politics: Boris Johnson 'understands' frustration over lockdown rules

Johnson said changes must happen slowly
The PM has acknowledged people's frustrations
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Boris Johnson has accepted that the government's steps to ease lockdown restrictions are causing frustration for some, but stressed the complexity of the current situation. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

This is a complex problem and we need to trust in the good sense of the British people."

- Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has acknowledged the public frustration caused by the recent changes to coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the UK, but stressed the government is attempting to "do something that has never been done before".

The prime minister faced criticism last week after announcing the first steps to ease the lockdown in England, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and others saying the measures lacked clarity and consistency across the four nations of the UK.

It was announced yesterday that daily coronavirus deaths had fallen to 170 - the lowest figure recorded since the day after lockdown started.

'A complex problem'

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson noted that moving the country out of a full lockdown in a way that is safe and mitigates the risk of a second peak in the pandemic is an unprecedented challenge.

The government's first steps have been to relax restrictions on time spent outdoors, with people now allowed to take unlimited exercise and to meet one other person from another household in an open space, provided they stay two metres apart.

People are being encouraged to return to work and are allowed to travel to their workplace if they can't do their job from home. Use of public transport is discouraged unless it's essential.

The government's previous 'stay at home' policy has been replaced by a new message for the public to 'stay alert'.

Johnson acknowledged that the new guidelines are less straightforward, but stressed that "this is a complex problem and we need to trust in the good sense of the British people".

He added: "If we all stick at it, then we'll be able, gradually, to get rid of the complexities and the restrictions and make it easier and simpler for families to meet again. But we must move slowly, and at the right time."

Labour has criticised elements of the government's strategy, particularly the differences between the approaches taken in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Starmer called for more consistency and solidarity across the four nations, while Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has warned the prime minister that ignoring regions could lead to a "fracturing of national unity".

The hunt for a vaccine

Johnson's article in the Mail on Sunday also referred to the ongoing race to find a coronavirus vaccine, which many see as the most likely route out of the pandemic.

The prime minister said the UK is "leading the global effort" to identify and develop a vaccine and is investing an additional £93 million to open a manufacturing and innovation centre 12 months ahead of schedule.

He also warned, however, that a vaccine "might not come to fruition".

Business secretary Alok Sharma said in yesterday's coronavirus briefing that a Covid-19 vaccine candidate currently being tested at Oxford University could be available to around half of the UK population by September, if clinical trials are successful.

An agreement with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca could lead to 100 million doses of the vaccine being produced, 30 million of which would be earmarked for British citizens.

"The UK will be first to get access but we can also ensure that in addition to supporting people here in the UK, we're able to make the vaccine available to developing countries at the lowest possible cost," Sharma said.

The gradual easing of lockdown restrictions - combined with other factors including a pledge by US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell to support the American economy with more stimulus measures, if necessary - buoyed European stock markets on Monday morning.

In London, the FTSE 100 was up by 2.2% towards the end of morning trading, while Germany's DAX index gained more than 2.7%. France's CAC 40 also jumped more than 2% at the start of trading.

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