| 11.5°C Dublin

'We'll be back to normal by Christmas,' says British prime minister


Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Britain can be back to normal in time for Christmas, Boris Johnson has said as he unveiled the UK government's roadmap out of the pandemic measures.

The British Prime Minister said the public should start "looking ahead with optimism" and "hope for the best", even though ministers would continue "planning for the worst".

He urged people to go back to work from the start of August and scrapped guidance on avoiding public transport.

Looking further ahead, Mr Johnson said: "It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas."

However, hours later Patrick Vallance, the British chief scientific adviser, struck a more pessimistic tone, warning that Britain could need another lockdown this winter when the challenge would be "very much greater".

Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, also told MPs social distancing must "continue for a long period of time".

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson paved the way for theatres and sports stadiums to reopen as he set out plans for a "significant return to normality" for England. Socially distanced sports events will be piloted over the summer, ahead of a wider reopening planned for autumn.

This is seen as key in determining if distancing measures can be lifted, a government source said. "The minute you start doing spectator sports, that's the moment - if it is safe to do so - that we're effectively there. Get through October and November looks possible," the source said.

A second source suggested the reopening of schools would also play a crucial role.

Mr Johnson warned of the "long-term impact" of social distancing on "the UK economy". However, he said plans for lifting restrictions were "entirely conditional" on keeping the virus under control, while announcing powers for local authorities to impose so-called "lightning lockdowns" to tackle outbreaks.

Next week, ministers will be handed sweeping new powers enabling them to ban travel in and out of hot-spot areas, which could see individual streets lock down or, potentially, entire towns.

Mr Johnson said that from August 1, it would be up to employers to discuss with staff whether it was safe to return to the office. He added: "We've all learnt all sorts of lessons over the last few months about the wonders of Zoom, muting and unmuting our colleagues," but urged employers to move away from working from home. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent