Boris Johnson has said the delayed date of July 19 for Covid-19 unlocking is a “terminus date” – suggesting the roadmap will not face further delays.
The Prime Minister delayed the end of England’s lockdown rules by four weeks last night in a No10 press conference.
Saying the delay would avert “thousands of deaths”, he told the nation: “Now is the time to ease off the accelerator.
“By being cautious now we have the chance – in the next four weeks – to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.”
The PM insisted he was “pretty confident” there will be no more delays after the latest one. But haven’t we heard that before?
Here are six other times he over-promised about our journey out of Covid hell…
19 March: ‘Turn the tide’ in 12 weeks
Just days before being admitted to hospital with Covid-19, the Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference the virus would be fading within 12 weeks.
He said: “I do think, looking at it all, that we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks.
“And I am absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing in this country but only if we take the steps, we all take the steps we have outlined.”
Those steps did not, at that stage, include a lockdown. That was imposed four days later and lasted almost the entire three months.
17 July: ‘Return to significant normality’ by Christmas
Boris Johnson announced a relaxation of restrictions, saying he hoped they would lead to a “more significant return to normality” by Christmas.
“From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and to allow conferences and other business events to recommence,” he said.
“Throughout this period, we will look to allow more close contact between friends and family when we can.
“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.”
In reality, he belatedly agreed to a second lockdown from November 5 before large events got properly off the ground. Christmas ‘bubble’ plans were mostly axed and a full lockdown followed just after New Year’s Day.
9 September: Moonshot ‘alternative plan’ to get ‘much closer to normal’ by Christmas
Boris Johnson announced his “moonshot” scheme for mass rapid testing, an “alternative plan” which he hoped “could allow life to return to closer to normality” by Christmas.
He suggested they would allow people more freedom to attend events or return to workplaces if they had a recent negative test.
“We are working hard to increase our testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October,” he said.
“We are hopeful this approach will be widespread by the spring and, if everything comes together, it may be possible even for challenging sectors like theatres to have life much closer to normal before Christmas.”
This claim is a bit more realistic than the others.
Mass testing is now commonplace with anyone able to get two free tests per week – and more than a million carried out per day.
But it did not, it’s fair to say, get mass panto back in the theatres, as Christmas was mired in last-minute lockdown U-turns and the tier system.
23 November: ‘Things really will look different after Easter’
As England prepared to emerge from the second full lockdown, Boris Johnson said: “Christmas this year will be different and we want to remain prudent through Christmas and beyond into the new year.
“But we will use the three tools that I have described to squeeze the virus in the weeks and months ahead – tiering, testing and the roll-out of vaccines – employing all three techniques together so as to drive down R and drive down the infection rate.
“And I really am now assured things really will look and feel very different indeed after Easter.
“And that idea of an end goal or date is important because at last – if the promise of the vaccines is fulfilled – we do have something to work for.”
On Easter Sunday 2021, relatives from different households were banned from meeting indoors – though they could have gatherings of six outside.
21 December: A ‘very, very different world’ from Easter
Mirror Political Editor Pippa Crerar asked the PM: “Throughout this pandemic you have frequently overpromised and underdelivered, whether it’s ‘turning the tide in 12 weeks’, ‘a second lockdown being a disaster’ or ‘cancelling Christmas being inhumane’.
“Why do you keep doing it? Do you recognise that it creates public confusion and, crucially, erodes public confidence?”
But the PM replied by saying: “I think we can certainly look forward to a very, very different world in this country, from Easter onwards as I think Chris [Whitty, Chief Medical Officer] and Patrick [Vallance, Chief Scientific Officer] have said before.”
Even as he spoke the Kent variant was surging and forced a third lockdown in the first week of January.
22 February: ‘Very optimistic’ restrictions will end on June 21
As the PM unveiled his June 21 roadmap date, he said he was “very optimistic” that it would herald the end of legal restrictions.
“Because of the immense possibilities of the [vaccine] rollout, because science has given us this way of creating a shield around our population, we can really look at that 21 June date with some optimism.
“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to get there.”
Speaking in Parliament, he added: “The end really is in sight.
“A wretched year will give way to a spring and a summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today.”
While steps two and three of his roadmap went ahead as planned, the final step four has been delayed by four weeks.
14 June: July 19 will be the ‘terminus’
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, the Prime Minister said he intended the four week delay to be the last one.
And while June 21 had been a ‘not before’ date, he believed July 19 was a final date.
“I’m pretty confident that July 19 will be a terminus date and we will be able to take things forward from there.”
However, he refused to guarantee there will be no more delays. And No10 confirmed lockdown will only be eased if its ‘four tests’ for the spread of the virus are met.