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Boris Johnson has said remaining lockdown restrictions look "set fair" to be lifted on July 19 as he raised hopes of a return to normality within weeks.
The Prime Minister effectively ruled out ditching measures early on July 5, saying it was "sensible" to stick with the planned "terminus" date of July 19.
Speaking on a visit to Batley and Spen, in West Yorkshire, the PM said the Government was working towards a return to "life as it was before Covid as far as possible" after July 19.
"Although there are some encouraging signs and the number of deaths remains low and the number of hospitalisations remains low – though both are going up a bit – we are seeing an increase in cases," he told reporters.
"So we think it's sensible to stick to our plan to have a cautious but irreversible approach, use the next three weeks or so really to complete as much as we can of that vaccine rollout – another five million jabs we can get into people's arms by July 19.
The PM suggested life could return to a pre-Covid state as far as possible within weeks
"And then with every day that goes by it's clearer to me and all our scientific advisers that we're very likely to be in a position on July 19 to say that really is the terminus and we can go back to life as it was before Covid as far as possible."
Mr Johnson delayed the end of all remaining limits on social contact earlier this month, which had been pencilled in for June 21.
He set a possible date for review on July 5 but he made it clear that the July 19 date was more likely.
Newly-appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to update MPs later on the route out of lockdown in his first Commons appearance since he took over from Matt Hancock.
Mr Hancock resigned from Government on Saturday after pictures emerged of him kissing close aide Gina Coladangelo in his Whitehall office.
Ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock quit at the weekend after admitting he broke social distancing rules by kissing a close aide
(Image: Getty Images)
Mr Javid struck a bullish note in his first remarks, saying his "absolute priority" was to end controls as quickly as possible and declaring there would be "no going back" once they were ended.
On a visit to St Thomas' Hospital in London, Mr Javid said: "I want to see the restrictions lifted and life going back to normal as quickly as possible.
"Right here and now that is my absolute priority. I want to see those restrictions lifted as soon as we can, as quickly as possible.
"In terms of the road map to that, you'll have to wait for my statement to Parliament later today.
"It's going to be irreversible, there's no going back. That's why we want to be careful during that process."
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But Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said the comments "smack of complacency".
"People have heard this before. First we were told we'd beat this virus in 12 weeks, then that we'd be back to normal by Christmas, then we were told it was data, not dates," the MP said.
"We don't need boastful claims, we need the Government to be taking it seriously and coming up with a proper plan to lift these restrictions and get back to normal."