Announcement could come in days, reports say
Boris Johnson is reportedly set to lift Plan B coronavirus restrictions in England at the next review as he works to save his premiership in the face of further allegations of parties in Downing Street throughout the pandemic.
A decision on measures including Covid passes and work from home guidance is due on 26 January, by which time the report into allegations of lockdown breaches in No 10 is expected to have been published.
The restrictions are expected to be lifted – though mask rules may still remain – and an announcement could come within days, according to The Daily Telegraph.
“There frankly doesn’t seem to be any other expectation at the moment,” a source told the paper about ending restrictions on 26 January.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is reported to have already decided that Covid passes are no longer necessary as cases have fallen from their record peak.
A source told The Times: “There was always a very high threshold for the policy and it looks increasingly likely in a couple of weeks that threshold won’t be met.”
The prime minister is working to keep his job in the face of pressure over lockdown rule-breaking in Downing Street.
He is said to be making a list of officials to resign over the partygate scandal in order to protect him.
Sources have told The Independent his plan – named “Operation Save Big Dog” – will also include drawing attention to his achievements.
The Daily Telegraph reports that political allies central to Mr Johnson’s 2019 campaigns to win the Conservative leadership and general election have been recruited to drum up support among Tory MPs.
It also reports two sources as saying that the prime minister spoke this week to Sir Lynton Crosby, the political strategist who helped him win the London mayoralty and Tory leadership.
An announcement of an end to lockdown restrictions could divert attention away from the publication of Sue Gray’s report into parties in Westminster during several lockdowns.
Ministers have been speaking positively about the state of the pandemic in the UK as signs of relief from the Omicron surge have started to show.
The UK reported 99,652 new cases on Friday, down nearly 80,000 on a week earlier. Mr Javid said there “are already early signs that the rate of hospitalisation is starting to slow”.
The Welsh government has already set out a plan to lift most restrictions over a period of two weeks amid falling cases.
And Northern Ireland’s first minister Paul Givan has expressed hope that he will be able to announce coronavirus rule relaxations next week.
He said the most recent modelling information on the virus was “very encouraging”.