Coronavirus: Boris Johnson announces plan to ‘return to normality’ by Christmas

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a press briefing in Downing Street,

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a press briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has suggested that Britain could 'return to normality' by Christmas during a coronavirus press briefing.

Johnson announced a raft of new measures aimed at the easing of lockdown including an end to the work-from-home policy by August 1st, allowing local authorities to declare a lockdown, and the reopening of leisure centres and theatres.

The new guidelines are all part of a timeline to see Britain fully reopen its economy by Christmas.

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The prime minister said: 'From tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers in their areas.

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'They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events.

'These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount.'

He added: 'Where justified by the evidence, ministers will be able to close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the size of gatherings beyond the national defined rules or restrict transport systems serving local areas.'

From August 1, the government will allow the reopening of most leisure settings, mainly bowling, skating rings, casinos and beauticians while nightclubs and 'soft play areas' will remain shut until further notice.

Indoor performances to a live audience will also restart, subject to the success of pilots, and wedding receptions for up to 30 people.

He added: 'It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.'

Johnson also announced plans to boost daily antigen testing capacity to 500,000 per day.

'We're making sure we're ready for winter and planning for the worst.

'But even as we plan for the worst I strongly believe we should hope for the best.

'That means looking ahead with optimism, now extending our plan to lift the remaining national measures, which have restricted our lives since March, so we can get back to something closer to normal life.'

He explained that the 'real secret' to avoiding a spike in coronavirus cases will be 'in the common sense and the collective action of the British people'.

'If you look at other countries around the world, I must say this in all candour to the British people, look at other countries around the world - we can see all too clearly what could go wrong if we don't continue to follow the guidance, if we don't continue to keep this thing under control, because plainly this is a very contagious illness and there are parts of the world where it's continuing to spike.

'We don't want to see that in this country.'

Acting Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey said the latest announcement was 'reckless'.

'While we all want life to get back to normal as soon as possible, people remain rightly worried about coronavirus. The prime minister's plan to change current guidance for working at home and public transport use is utterly reckless and flies in the face of experts, including the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser.

'With government testing and tracing plans in an unholy mess, it is deeply irresponsible to throw caution to the wind like this. Ministers are passing the buck and, without protections, they have opened the door to serious disputes between employees and employers.

He added: 'The government must be held to account to ensure that the same mistakes are never repeated. That is why I have called on the prime minister to bring forward a timetable for an independent inquiry before the summer recess. We need a commitment to an independent inquiry now, not more dither and delay.'

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