Covid: England 'set fair' for July 19 lockdown easing says Boris Johnson

What next for easing of lockdown in England - and Sajid Javid's new job? ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt has the details

England is "set fair" for easing lockdown restrictions on July 19, the prime minister has said, ahead of a statement by new Health Secretary Sajid Javid in the Commons on whether easing can be brought forward.

Boris Johnson, speaking during a campaign visit in Batley, said July 19 would very likely remain the date for ending coronavirus restrictions.

The PM said it was "sensible to stick to our plan" and revealed what he and Mr Javid had spoken about in "a good conversation" held on Sunday.

Boris Johnson suggests lockdown restrictions will not be eased before July 19:

"Although there are some encouraging signs and the number of deaths remains low and the number of hospitalisations remains low, though both are going up a bit, we are seeing an increase in cases," Mr Johnson said.

"So we think it's sensible to stick to our plan to have a cautious but irreversible approach, use the next three weeks or so really to complete as much as we can of that vaccine rollout - another five million jabs we can get into people's arms by July 19.

"And then with every day that goes by it's clearer to me and all our scientific advisers that we're very likely to be in a position on July 19 to say that really is the terminus and we can go back to life as it was before Covid as far as possible."

Will Sajid Javid bring a different approach to the pandemic compared to Matt Hancock? ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has analysis

Mr Javid, who became the Health Secretary following Matt Hancock’s resignation over the weekend, said on Monday he wanted "to see the restrictions lifted and life doing back to normal as quickly as possible."

He did not clarify whether lockdown restrictions would be eased earlier, but added: "It’s going to irreversible, no going back and that’s why we want to be careful during that process and I'll have more to say about this during my statement."

The new Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the easing will be "irreversible":

As Monday marks a week before July 5, the midway point of the extension of measures and the earliest point at which remaining restrictions could be lifted, Mr Javid is expected to return to the Commons despatch box for the first time since he quit as chancellor in February last year, after being told he must sack all his advisers if he wanted to keep his job.

While it is not expected he will bring what is left of lockdown to a close any earlier than July 19, he is reported to be confident the measures will not extend past that date.

Ministers have promised to give one week’s notice to any change of restrictions.

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Mr Javid is considered to be more in the so-called “hawks” camp of Cabinet opinion over the approach to coronavirus, alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

In a resurfaced interview from May last year with Sky News, he voiced his concerns over long lockdowns and how they would impact the economy.

In contrast, Mr Hancock had been considered a “dove”, who pressed for more stringent restrictions.

Asked on Sunday whether Labour would support any change of approach under the new health secretary, leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “What we’ve seen today already I’m afraid is confusion, because the incoming Health Secretary said he wants to open up as quickly as possible. The Government’s now rowed back on that.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak Credit: Lee Smith/PA

Contrasting Mr Javid’s comments to journalists with a similar statement issued in his name by his new department, but omitting the “as soon and as quickly as possible” clause, Sir Keir said: “I don’t think it’s inspired confidence that already in day one, there’s been the health secretary saying his position this morning and then the Government rowing back on it.”

As well as the pandemic, Mr Javid has a myriad of issues to deal with such as upcoming NHS reforms, the backlog patients are facing for treatment, and a long-expected social care plan.

He will also face questions over NHS pay and staff burnout, as British Medical Association (BMA) council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned he faces a “baptism of fire”.

Mr Javid said he is aware of the “huge responsibility” of the job.

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The former chancellor and home secretary’s return to the top tier of politics after 16 months came after pressure over Mr Hancock’s kiss with aide Gina Coladangelo, revealed in footage leaked from inside his ministerial office, became too much for the West Suffolk MP, who handed in his resignation to Boris Johnson on Saturday.

Labour said questions remained over a number of issues, including how Mrs Coladangelo – a friend of Mr Hancock from university – was hired as an unpaid adviser, and then to a £15,000 role at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and issued with a parliamentary pass.

It was reported that Mrs Coladangelo will also leave her DHSC role.

Sir Keir said: “Obviously there’s huge questions still to answer. If anybody thinks that the resignation of Matt Hancock is the end of the issue, I think they’re wrong and I think the incoming Health Secretary and the Prime Minister now have serious questions to answer about the CCTV, about the access, the passes, the contracts, etc.

“So the resignation is far from the end of the matter.”