Boris Johnson indicates UK on course to ditch social distancing in June

Prime minister cautious but positive as he campaigns for local elections

Britain could ditch social distancing on June 21 if there is a sustained fall in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"I think we've got a good chance, a good chance of being able to dispense with one-metre plus," Mr Johnson said during a local election campaign visit to the north of England.

The UK is easing lockdown measures thanks to falling infection numbers and a successful vaccination campaign that saw nearly 50 million doses administered since January.

Britain's Boris Johnson greets members of the public while campaigning on behalf of Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer ahead of the 2021 Hartlepool by-election. PA.
Britain's Boris Johnson greets members of the public while campaigning on behalf of Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer ahead of the 2021 Hartlepool by-election. PA.

The distancing rule requires people to stay at least one metre apart, but has been heavily criticised by the hospitality industry.

In April, gyms, hairdressers, outdoor restaurants and pubs were allowed to reopen in England.

On May 17, indoor dining will be allowed and foreign travel rules eased, but not fully lifted.

But Mr Johnson struck a cautious tone ahead of that deadline.

"We do want to do some opening up on May 17, but I don't think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else. I certainly don't. We've got to be very, very tough, and we've got to be as cautious as we can," he said.

During campaigning, Mr Johnson has faced questions about who paid for the refurbishment of his apartment and childcare for his son.

Last month it was reported that he said he would prefer to see "bodies piled up in the street" before ordering a third lockdown – an allegation he denies.

Campaigning ahead of an election for a parliamentary seat and local government elections, Mr Johnson declined to answer questions about opposition Labour Party allegations of sleaze.

"All this kind of stuff is absolutely not relevant," he said, insisting that voters wanted to focus on policies ahead of the elections on Thursday.

Updated: May 3, 2021 08:30 PM

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