England 'tantalisingly close' to lifting final coronavirus restrictions, says Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said England is “tantalisingly close” to lifting the final swathe of coronavirus restrictions as he prepares to address the country tomorrow to confirm whether the next stage of unlocking can go ahead.

Mr Johnson is expected to say that the country can move to Step 4 of the road map to lift measures in a press conference tomorrow afternoon, but he will also warn that Covid-19 cases will rise as rules designed to suppress the virus are removed.

The Prime Minister said: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.

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“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said mask-wearing will still be “expected” in indoor enclosed spaces after July 19. Mr Zahawi told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News that guidance set out today will say people were expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces, although the legal requirement to do so would be dropped.

Mr Zahawi: “I think it’s important that we remain cautious and careful and the guidelines that we’ll set out tomorrow will demonstrate that, including guidelines that people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces.”

It comes as Health Secretary Sajid Javid told The Sunday Telegraph anyone who would not wear a mask in an enclosed space was “just being irresponsible”.