UK Politics: PM reveals 'conditional plan' for easing lockdown

The prime minister says changes will be guided by science and data
Johnson has outlined the government's roadmap out of lockdown
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Boris Johnson has outlined the first tentative steps towards easing lockdown, but Labour says the government's plans lack clarity. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

We are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures."

- Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has revealed the government's "conditional plan" for starting to ease lockdown measures in the UK, but stressed that tentative steps towards reopening society can only be taken if the coronavirus outbreak is under control.

In a televised address to the nation last night, the prime minister announced slight modifications to the rules and guidance around people going to work and spending time outside, as well as potential dates for the phased reopening of primary schools and shops.

Labour said the policy update "raises more questions than it answers", and there have also been concerns about a lack of unity between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of government messages to the public.

Looser restrictions

Johnson described the latest measures as "the first sketch of a roadmap for reopening society".

"This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures," he said.

It was confirmed that, from Wednesday this week, there will be no restrictions on the amount of outdoor exercise people can take, as long as they continue to abide by the rules on social distancing.

Workers who can't do their jobs from home - such as those employed in construction or manufacturing - are now being actively encouraged to return to work, but to avoid public transport if they can.

The prime minister also introduced a new five-level Covid alert system to indicate the threat posed by the virus, which would dictate when and how quickly lockdown restrictions could be eased.

If the alert level permits it, some primary pupils could return to schools from June 1 at the earliest and more shops could be allowed to reopen.

July 1 would be the earliest date that hospitality businesses and other public spaces could be permitted to reopen, but Johnson stressed these changes can only happen if the scientific evidence shows they're safe.

"Throughout this period of the next two months we will be driven not by mere hope or economic necessity. We are going to be driven by the science, the data and public health," he said.

"And I must stress again all of this is conditional; it all depends on a series of big ifs."

'Clarity and consensus'

The government's key message to the public is now: "Stay alert, control the virus, save lives."

However, the UK's devolved governments were keen to stress that this slight shift away from the previous "stay at home" message only applies in England. Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said there should be a "simpler" policy in place and people in Scotland are still being urged to stay at home, even though the country is easing its once-a-day exercise limit this week.

Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething also suggested a lack of coherence across the UK, saying there had not been a "four-nations agreement" on introducing the new "stay alert" message.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there is a risk of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland "pulling in different directions".

He added: "The prime minister appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work without a clear plan for safety or clear guidance as to how to get there without using public transport.

"What the country wanted tonight was clarity and consensus, but we haven't got either of those."

The markets seemed unsure what to make of the slight easing of lockdown restrictions, with the FTSE 100 seeing an early bump of nearly 1% before slipping into negative territory. It was down more than 0.3% by late morning.

Similar patterns emerged across Europe, with Germany's DAX index and France's CAC 40 both making positive starts to trading before dropping into the red towards the end of morning trading.

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