Michael Gove has given a solemn promise that July 19 will definitely be the end of lockdown – then withdrawn it seconds later.
The Cabinet Office minister had a bizarre exchange on ITV’s Good Morning Britain after he was asked about a four-week delay.
Boris Johnson last night delayed step four of his roadmap – lifting the six-person gathering limit indoors, abolishing social distancing laws and reopening nightclubs – from June 21 to July 19.
The Prime Minister faces Tory MPs’ fury despite claiming it will avert “thousands of deaths”. And hospitality firms are enraged after he refused to extend furlough, which starts winding back on July 1.
Last night Mr Johnson said he expects July 19 to be the “terminus” date, despite previously saying he’d follow “data not dates”.
But crucially, the Prime Minister stopped short of an absolute guarantee that lockdown rules will definitely end on July 19.
Michael Gove today went further and did give that promise. But he then appeared to row back on it straight away.
Asked by host Susanna Reid “can you give us a promise that July 19 will be the end of it?”, he replied: “Yes”.
But he then immediately added: “None of us can predict the future with 100% certainty.
“There could be something bizarre and unprecedented that occurs.
“But on the basis of all the information we have, then we will have successfully protected such large sections of the population…. so we’re as confident as confident can be about that date.”
Downing Street later confirmed the July 19 lockdown easing will only go ahead if the four tests on beating Covid are met.
Boris Johnson last night said Brits would one day “learn to live with” Covid, but “now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now we have the chance – in the next four weeks – to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.”
But hospitality firms have erupted in anger after the PM confirmed the furlough scheme will start winding down as planned on July 1.
Employers will have to contribute 10% then 20% of wages in August before the scheme ends altogether on September 30.
The PM also faces a furious backlash from Tory MPs who will vote on the lockdown extension on Wednesday.
Labour also slammed the government for taking 22 days to put India on the red list after a variant from the country was first identified in the UK.
While Delta was only deemed ‘of concern’ in May, the B.1.617.1 variant – similar to B.1.617.2 which is the ‘Delta’ strain – was deemed under investigation on April 1. India was only put on the red list on April 23.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said today: “They have allowed the Delta variant, first identified in India to take hold here.
“Let’s call it what it is. Let’s put the blame where it should lie in this country – it’s the Johnson Variant.”
Michael Gove today insisted it was “total rubbish” that Boris Johnson delayed putting India on the red list because he wanted to get a trade deal and meet the Indian PM on TV cameras.
“The Prime Minister would never put the health of the country at risk in that way”, he claimed, 15 months after the PM boasted about how he shook hands with “everybody” at a hospital with Covid patients.