Boris Johnson Starts to Ease U.K. Lockdown With Back to Work Plan: Full Speech

Date: 2020-05-10 19:16:08

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Boris Johnson announced the “first careful steps” to lift the U.K.’s lockdown and restart the economy, setting out a “conditional plan” for getting more people back to work while controlling the spread of Covid-19.

Stressing there will be no immediate end to the lockdown, the British prime minister announced looser restrictions on movement from Wednesday, starting with unlimited outdoor leisure time for sports such as golf and tennis, and allowing people to drive to parks and beaches in England.

Johnson told people who cannot work at home — such as those in the manufacturing and construction sectors — to go to work. “Work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t.” But the premier also revealed plans to tighten the rules in key areas. Anyone flouting social distancing rules will face fines starting at 100 pounds ($124), an increase from 60 pounds. Fines will rise to a maximum of 3,200 pounds for repeat offenders.

“This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week,” Johnson said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday evening. “Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures.” The cautious approach will potentially further anger those members of Johnson’s Conservative Party who are pushing for a swift end to the lockdown that has so damaged Europe’s second-biggest economy. The government is caught between demands to get more people back to work and off the state’s furlough program, and the fear of triggering a new wave of infections that could require ministers to shut down the economy again.

In his address, Johnson said the country had avoided the “catastrophe” of the “reasonable worst case scenario” of 500,000 deaths from coronavirus because widespread adherence to lockdown rules had prevented hospitals from being overwhelmed. “It would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike,” he said.

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