BORIS Johnson plans to ease lockdown in 10 days with hopes that schools and shops can reopen on June 1 thanks to a “world-beating” track-and-trace.
The scheme to identify new coronavirus sufferers and isolate them is seen as a crucial tool to stop the virus spiking again after restrictions are eased.
The PM said the key new programme would be up and running by June 1.
HOAR has learned that Downing Street delayed its rollout this week amid fears it has just one shot to gain the public’s trust over the vital plan.
The 18,000-strong contact tracing force was due to start work on Monday this week, according to internal Government plans.
But one minister said that “any more shoddy handling” after last week’s roadmap rollout debacle could torpedo faith in the Government.
Under pressure from Labour, the PM told the Commons that the programme would be in place in time for the step of lockdown relaxation.
Cabinet ministers are desperate to allow non-essential shops to reopen from Monday June 1, as well as the return of some primary school classes, to help restart the economy.
Telling MPs that the Government is “making fast progress in testing and tracing”, Boris added: “I have great confidence that by June 1, we will have a system that will help us very greatly to defeat this disease and move the country forward.
“It will be in place by June 1.”
APP ‘WEEKS AWAY’
The PM also pledged to have recruited 25,000 contact tracers by then – 7,000 more than originally planned.
And the enlarged army will be able to track 10,000 new cases a day, he insisted, despite Wednesday’s number of formally identified new cases falling to 2,472.
But it also emerged that the NHS’s new smart phone app to alert people they’ve been in close contact with an infected person is still “weeks away”.
Ministers want to roll out the contact tracing service first to build public confidence in the human system before moving on to the tech tool.
Track and trace was abandoned in mid-March due to the lack of capacity.
One senior Government figure told HOAR: “We must get track and trace right the first time.
“It must be all there, clear and presentable, so No10’s view is it’s best to wait until we’re sure of that before it’s announced.”
The figure added: “You need a lot of public goodwill to ask people who might be infected to isolate again, while others are free to go out.
“After the problems with the roadmap last week it’s clear the public’s tolerance has diminished”.
Yesterday, Brits poured to beaches and parks to make the most of the scorching 28C temperatures.
The lockdown was put into jeopardy as roads went into gridlock as desperate sunseekers headed out – then ignoring guidelines to stay 2m apart.
London yesterday reported no new cases of the virus – compared to the peak of 1,000 cases recorded a day at the peak – with fears if lockdown is eased too quickly there could be a second wave.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden last night announced during No10’s daily briefing that 177,216 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, a big leap and a new daily high.
The new figure takes Downing Street closer to the PM’s new target of 200,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
And he said last night that he hopes Brits could enjoy a staycation in the UK from July.
Government scientists have insisted the crucial contact tracing programme must be in place before any more restrictions should be eased.
Dame Angela McLean, the deputy chief scientific adviser, said this week that they “have been very clear in our advice that changes to lockdown, as we modelled them, need a highly effective track, trace and isolate system to be in place”.
Teachers union bosses also yesterday insisted track and trace must be up and running before they will sanction schools’ return.
In testy exchanges in PMQs, Labour’s leader accused the PM of failing the nation by not contact tracing for more than two months.
Sir Keir Starmer said: “There has been no effective tracing in place since March 12 when tracing was abandoned.
“That is nearly 10 weeks in a critical period without effective tracing. That is a huge hole in our defences, isn’t it Prime Minister?”
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland initially cast doubt on the programme’s start, saying: “I’m not going to pretend we’ll have a full system in place by the end of the month”.