James Forsyth

Sajid Javid says restrictions could return after ‘freedom day’

Sajid Javid says restrictions could return after ‘freedom day’
Sajid Javid (photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)
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In another sign of the government’s more cautious approach to the July 19 unlocking, Sajid Javid has just told the Commons that government guidance will encourage large venues to use ‘certification’ – in other words, proof of vaccination or a negative test – to determine who is admitted, that those working from home should return to their offices gradually and that masks will be expected to be worn on public transport.

This guidance is, obviously, not the same as law but it is a clear sign that the government wants people to carry on behaving cautiously after July 19. It is a long way away from any kind of ‘freedom day’ rhetoric.

Interestingly, in response to a question from Jeremy Hunt, Javid accepted that restrictions could have to come back if the data starts going the wrong way because of a variant of concern or some other factor.

Javid was also clear that the government had decided to go ahead with July 19 as it judged it the least worst time to ease restrictions. He accepted that hospitalisations would go up, and that there would be a ‘summer wave’ but said it would not put ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS.

The next month will be a nervous time for the government. The two big questions are: is there sufficient hospital capacity to deal with this exit wave? And how much will public behaviour really change with the lifting of restrictions? On the latter point, I suspect the answer is not too much. With case numbers high, I expect that you won’t see people behaving that differently to how they are now.