Boris Johnson has pledged to reveal details of what the end of lockdown restrictions will look like in the coming days as he acknowledged some “extra precautions” may be needed.
The Prime Minister said it is “ever clearer” that vaccines are reducing deaths, despite increasing levels of infections involving the Delta variant of coronavirus.
He said he has increasing confidence that he can go ahead with the final phase of his plans to end England’s lockdown on July 19 to “get back to life as close to it was before Covid”.
His comments came after new Health Secretary Sajid Javid earlier this week confirmed his intention for Step 4 of the road map to go ahead at that point, but he stopped short of confirming to MPs that will mean the end of every measure.
During a visit to the Nissan plant in Sunderland on Thursday, the Prime Minister told reporters: “I know how impatient people are to get back to total normality, as indeed am I.
“I will be setting in the course of the next few days what Step 4 will look like exactly.
“But I think I’ve said it before, we’ll be wanting to go back to a world that is as close to the status quo, ante-Covid, as possible. Try to get back to life as close to it was before Covid.
“But there may be some things we have to do, extra precautions that we have to take, but I’ll be setting them out.”
Mr Johnson acknowledged there has been a “big” increase in positive cases in England after the latest Test and Trace figures put this at more than 79,000 in the week to June 23 – the highest figure since February.
But he insisted the nation is in the “final furlong” of ending restrictions.
He added: “It looks ever clearer… the speed of that vaccine rollout has broken that link between infection and mortality and that’s an amazing thing. That gives us the scope, we think on the 19th to go ahead, cautiously, irreversibly.”
His comments came as the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England showed case rates continuing to rise in all regions of England.
The North East had the highest rate, with 346.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to June 27, up sharply from 175.3 the previous week.
Mr Johnson also raised expectations over holidays abroad when asked about reports that fully-vaccinated people may be able to travel quarantine free from amber list countries by July 26.
“Everybody who is frustrated about travel over the summer – double jabs will be a liberator,” he said.
“I want travel to be possible but I’ve got to stress that this year will not be like every other year because of the difficulties with Covid. People shouldn’t expect it will be completely hassle free.”
The Prime Minister also urged parents, pupils and Tory MPs to be “patient” over calls to end isolation for entire school “bubbles” when lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith is among 48 MPs to have signed a letter to the Prime Minister warning that the current policy is “disproportionate” and “unsustainable”.
Official data shows 279,000 children in England are isolating because of possible contact with a Covid-19 case.
Mr Johnson said he understands the “frustration” over whole bubbles being sent home to isolate but said the Public Health England review into favouring testing over isolation is still under way.
“They haven’t concluded yet so what I want to do is just to be cautious as we go forward to that natural firebreak of the summer holidays when the risk in schools will greatly diminish and just ask people to be a little bit patient,” he said during a visit to the Nissan plant in Sunderland.