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The UK is facing a "rough" winter, Boris Johnson has warned today – and wouldn't rule out more Covid restrictions if an unexpected "horror" appears.

And he played down suggestions that restrictions on foreign travel could be lifted as more people received the coronavirus vaccine.

Asked if he'd rule out a return to lockdown if Coronavirus surged again, the Prime Minister said: "I think you can never exclude that there will be some new disease or some new horror that we haven't budgeted for.

"But looking at where we are, looking at the efficacy of the vaccines against the variants that we can currently see – so alpha, delta, the lot of them, kappa, I think it's looking good for July 19 to be that terminus point."

He added: "I think what the scientists are saying is that things like flu will come back this winter, we may have a rough winter for all sorts of reasons.

"Obviously there are big pressures on the NHS – all the more reason to reduce the number of covid cases down, give the NHS the breathing space it needs to get on with all those other pressures – and we're certainly going to be putting in the investment to make sure that they can."

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Speaking during a visit to a laboratory in Hertfordshire, the Mr Johnson played down the idea of lifting travel restrictions for people with two jabs: "I want to stress that this is going to be – whatever happens – a difficult year for travel.

"There will be hassle, there will be delays, I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in."

Asked if the government was looking at easing the rules for those who have been double-vaccinated, Johnson said: "We're looking at it but I want to stress that the emphasis is going to be on making sure that we can protect the country from the virus coming back in."

Boris Johnson
(Image: REUTERS)

Matt Hancock
(Image: REUTERS)

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is piloting the approach of scrapping 10-day isolation periods for people who have had two doses of vaccine and replacing it with daily tests.

He said the pilot was going forward to "to check that that will be effective, but it is something that we're working on".

He told BBC Breakfast: "We're not ready to be able to take that step yet, but it's something that I want to see and we will introduce, subject to clinical advice, as soon as it's reasonable to do so."

He was also asked whether the remaining restrictions are likely to be lifted before the new road map date for England of July 19.

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He said: "We are looking at the data, and we've said that we'll take a specific look two weeks into the four-week delay that we had to put in place to get more people vaccinated, so we'll do that.

"But I have every confidence that the more people get vaccinated, the easier it is, the safer it is to lift restrictions. We had to have the delay in order to get more people vaccinated, especially those second vaccines to protect people, we're being careful, we're being cautious.

"But I have a high degree of confidence that this vaccine is going to get us out of this, and the more people who come forward, the easier that will be."

He said more than a million second jabs for people over the age of 50 have been done in just 10 days.

"So we are getting there," he added. "We're not quite there yet but we're getting there and you can see it in the data, you can see the protection that people are getting."