Covid-19 ‘escape route’ in sight, says Prime Minister

Boris Johnson addresses the nation

The Prime Minister has said he can see an escape route out of the Covid-19 pandemic during a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

Boris Johnson, who is still self-isolating, was speaking via video link to MPs and outlined the return of the Rule of Six, business events up to a certain capacity and a return to a tiered system when the national lockdown in England ends next week.

Speaking on the same day that the Oxford University/Astra Zeneca vaccine breakthrough, Johnson said that the “scientific cavalry is in sight” and that the UK has ordered 350 million doses of the three different vaccines that have so far proved successful in trials – enough to safeguard every UK citizen at home and overseas.

However, he urged caution, adding: “We’re not there yet. We need to get through through the winter without squandering the gains we’ve made during the last few weeks. That’s why our Winter Plan can help us get through until the Spring.”

The Prime Minister warned that the previous tier system hadn’t been enough to reduce the R number below 1. This time around, he said, the tiers would be tougher. In Tier 1 people would be encouraged to work from home. It Tier 2 hospitality venues would only be allowed to open if they served a substantial meal, and in Tier 3 all hospitality venues would be closed, except for takeaways. He said that most areas would, from next week, fall into higher tiers than they were previously in – and that these will be regional rather than on district terms and will be announced on Thursday of this week (November 23).

All gyms will open next Wednesday, he added, and outdoors sports can resume. Previous tiers not quite enough to reduce R number below 1.

The Prime Minister also outlined the launch of a major community testing programme offering all Tier 3 communities a “six week surge” of testing.

He ended by saying: “This is not a pandemic without end. From next month the NHS will embark on a vaccine programme the likes of which we have never seen before. An escape route is in sight.”