Boris Johnson cancels plans for Churchillian Freedom Day launch – after No 10 alarm over a surge in infections
- Boris Johnson had planned a major speech to celebrate the lifting of Covid rules
- Number 10 became anxious after Covid-19 infections continued to rise rapidly
- Yesterday, the number of daily cases hit 54,674, with 740 patients hospitalised
- Scientists believe daily Covid rates could soon hit 100,000 cases a day
Boris Johnson cancelled plans for a Churchillian launch of Freedom Day after No 10 became alarmed by the surge in the number of infections, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
Officials had discussed marking the lifting of Covid restrictions with a rousing speech by the Prime Minister at an historic venue associated with the wartime leader – until scientific advisers took fright at the recent climb in cases.
Mr Johnson has abandoned his previously bullish attitude to tomorrow’s ditching of most restrictions – including social distancing and legal limits on gatherings – and is no longer referring to the moment as ‘irreversible’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has abandoned plans for a Churchillian victory speech tomorrow because of the rapidly escalating numbers of Covid-19 infection
A Government source said: ‘The plan had been for Boris to effectively declare victory over the virus by summoning the spirit of Churchill, with appropriately stirring rhetoric. That no longer feels appropriate.’
Despite the relaxation in rules, the official guidelines still advise that facemasks should be worn in enclosed spaces such as shops and on public transport, while pubs and bars should be table service only.
Mr Johnson published a biography of Churchill, writing that ‘he alone saved our civilisation’.
Critics detected an attempt to draw parallels with his predecessor when the Prime Minister described him as ‘a thoroughgoing genius’ although ‘there were too many Tories who thought of him as an unprincipled opportunist’.
On Friday, the UK recorded more than 50,000 daily cases of Covid for the first time since mid-January and that tally is soon expected to pass the previous peak of 68,000.
Yesterday, the number of daily cases hit 54,674, with 740 patients admitted to hospital and 41 deaths.
But vaccination rates are slowing, with 67,956 people having their first dose on Friday, and 188,976 their second: daily rates were running well below the level at the height of the rollout.
The total number of people who have had both doses across the UK is now more than 35.7 million – just under 68 per cent of adults.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday described the situation as ‘very serious’, and raised the prospect of another lockdown this autumn
Tomorrow morning, most Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted across England, although governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are re-opening at a slower pace
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday described the situation as ‘very serious’, and raised the prospect of another lockdown this autumn.
Mr Hunt, who is now chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said that if cases were still rising in September, ‘I think we are going to have to reconsider’.
He added the NHS dashboard’s warning light ‘is not flashing amber, it is flashing red’, although he admitted he was hopeful that enough people have had either the virus or vaccine for the country to be approaching herd immunity.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he thought the current wave ‘will be quite long and drawn out… my hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably much of the autumn’.
He added that with infections doubling every two weeks, the number of cases could soon reach 100,000 a day – something which he ascribed to the number of young people still unvaccinated.