On the day that nearly all legal Covid restrictions go, one could be forgiven for presuming ministers would be in the mood for celebration. Instead the press conference Boris Johnson led this afternoon to mark so-called freedom day proved a sombre affair. The Prime Minister was forced to dial in remotely after having to self isolate as a result of coming into close contact with the Health Secretary last week, who has since tested positive for Covid. From his self isolation, Johnson went on to unveil plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and contingency plans to keep the country moving as millions face self isolation in the coming weeks.
Johnson began the press conference by offering a justification for his decision to lift nearly all restrictions despite rising cases. Echoing his previous comments on the matter, the Prime Minister said it was a matter of ‘if not now, when?’. He said there ‘comes a point after so many who have been vaccinated when further restrictions no longer prevent hospitalisations and deaths, but simply delay the inevitable’. Yet with both deaths and hospitalisations rising, Johnson said some precautions needed to remain in place.
Despite calls from his own MPs to bring forward the self-isolation exemption for the double-jabbed or ease the test and trace app, Johnson said it was essential the system stayed in place. Although he attempted to ‘briefly’ get out of self isolation himself this weekend (something he sought to downplay in the Q&A), Johnson said it was ‘one of the only shots we’ve got left in our locker to stop the chain reaction’ of Covid spread. The comments point to the nerves in government at the lifting of restrictions. In recent weeks, ministers have softened their language on mask use – suggesting it is the right thing to do in enclosed spaces.