BORIS Johnson today said he was pressing ahead with plans to end lockdown on June 21 – but that crucial data was still “ambiguous”.
The PM apologised to frustrated Brits for not yet being able to “give a clear answer” but insisted he was closely scrutinising the evidence.
Speaking in Downing Street today he said: “I can see nothing in the data at the moment that means we can’t go ahead with Step 4 on June 21 – but we have to be so cautious.”
The PM added the Government expected a rise in cases as the UK eased restrictions and was now looking to see if it sparked more deaths.
He said: “What we need to work out is to what extent the vaccination programme has protected enough of us, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, against a new surge.
“And there I’m afraid the data is just still ambiguous.”
He relayed concerns from scientists that we “just need to wait a little bit longer” for a surefire answer.
The PM is due to come to a final decision about June 21 one week before on June 14.
He apologised for leaving the public guessing in lockdown limbo, admitting he knows it’s “frustrating”.
June 21’s Freedom Day is the final waypoint of the Government’s roadmap and marks the end of all legal restrictions after almost 15 months.
But the PM – back at his desk after marrying Carrie Symonds on Saturday – is being pulled in opposite directions by scientists and hawkish MPs.
Gloomy boffins have called on Mr Johnson to slam the brakes on his roadmap for fear of fuelling the spread of the Indian variant.
One Nervtag adviser even warned Britain could be heading for a third wave and urged the PM to press the pause button for a month.
But senior Tories slapped down the naysayers and accused them of mounting an organised effort to derail the unlocking.
They jumped upon yesterday’s zero deaths as evidence vaccines are breaking the link between cases, hospitalisations and fatalities.
Britain is also expected to reach the milestone of jabbing 75 per cent of all adults today.
Top Oxford professor Sir John Bell today rowed in behind Tory MPs and said the country cannot “scamper down a rabbit hole” with every new strain.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “If we scamper down a rabbit hole every time we see a new variant, we’re going to spend a long time huddled away”.
As the PM spoke out today
- Millions of Brits hoping to head abroad were warned they faced “carnage” with testing
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock prepared to address G7 health ministers
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hailed the UK’s zero deaths but warned against complacency
- Mr Johnson was back at work meeting Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg in No10
Nicola Sturgeon yesterday cited a worrying rise in the Indian mutation – freshly renamed as the Delta variant – as the reason to delay Scotland’s roadmap.
She warned Scotland – which currently has the highest rate of new infections in the UK – is at a “delicate and fragile point” in its crisis as she postponed the next phase of unlocking for millions of people.
Her decision split the country down the middle, with Scots living under varying degrees of freedom.
Mr Johnson is reluctant to revive the tier system and Downing Street yesterday said exiting lockdown was a “national endeavour”.
A review is currently underway about whether social distancing and mask-wearing should continue after Freedom Day.
Rolling out vaccine passports is also being considered – but is believed to be dead in the water following a backlash from landlords.