United Kingdom

IFS: Lockdown easing SHOULD speed up if Covid data remains positive

The easing of lockdown restrictions should be speeded up to save the economy if the data on coronavirus infections and the vaccine drive remain positive, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested today. 

Paul Johnson, the director of the influential think tank, said that if the numbers move 'more positively than expected' the exit from the national shutdown 'should be sped up'. 

Boris Johnson has pencilled in a deadline of June 21 for life to return to something close to normal in England. 

But the think tank boss said 'there is no need to stick to a date if things go better than expected' as he warned of the damage being done by lockdown. 

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said that if the numbers move 'more positively than expected' the exit from the national shutdown 'should be sped up'

Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap out of lockdown on Monday last week, setting out the earliest possible dates for each step of lifting restrictions. He has insisted he will stick to the plan

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today became the latest senior Government minister to rule out speeding up the Prime Minister's roadmap. 

He said the dates contained within the premier's four step plan for easing restrictions are the 'earliest dates by which things can happen'.   

But the IFS's Mr Johnson told Sky News: ‘I think it is very clear that if things move more quickly, more positively than expected, if we have a very high fraction of people vaccinated and very low levels of infection, then yes it should be sped up.

‘There is no need to stick to a date if things go better than expected and every month, every week of additional lockdown is costing not just the economy, I mean it is costing so many people so much in terms of their mental health, their education, their work and everything else that it should be moved as quickly as is possible, consistent with doing it safely.

‘So if we can do it quicker we absolutely should.’   

Mr Sunak categorically ruled out rules being lifted earlier than planned when he was asked about it during an appearance on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. 

Asked if it was a possibility, the Chancellor replied: ‘No, that is not what the Prime Minister has said. These are the earliest dates by which things can happen.

‘But I think you are right that we should take comfort and confidence from the fact that the roll-out is going well, that the data that is coming back about the vaccine’s effectiveness is also coming back strongly and hopefully this is a cautious but irreversible one-way ticket to getting our lives slowly back to normal.

‘That is what we all want to see, but it is right that for now we follow the rules we go and get our vaccine when we are asked and hopefully we can make progress.’ 

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