Boris Johnson defied bid to axe pub reopening over Indianvariant fear

Boris Johnson defied last-minute bid to axe pub reopening by urging ministers not to overreact to fears about Indian variant

  • Prime Minister fought off last-minute attempts to delay last Monday’s relaxation
  • He overrode recommendations from scientists on the Sage advisory group 
  • According to reports, Mr Johnson also defied delay attempts by Michael Gove 

Boris Johnson fought off last-minute attempts to delay last Monday’s relaxation of Covid restrictions by urging fellow Ministers not to overreact to concerns about the Indian variant.

He overrode recommendations from scientists on the Sage advisory group to hold back on the May 17 opening up of indoor hospitality.

According to reports, Mr Johnson also defied attempts by Michael Gove to at least have a local delay to easing restrictions in parts of the North West hit hardest by the Indian strain. 

But sources close to Mr Gove denied he had called for a localised postponement.

Boris Johnson fought off last-minute attempts to delay last Monday’s relaxation of Covid restrictions by urging fellow Ministers not to overreact to concerns about the Indian variant

However, today’s news that the vaccines have been proven to be as effective against the Indian strain as other variants – and that it is not as virulently transmissible as previously claimed – will be seen as vindication for Mr Johnson’s approach.

The alleged standoff – at meetings on May 13 and 14 – was the latest bout in the Cabinet battle between ‘hawks’, who worry about the financial damage caused by lockdowns, and the ‘doves’, led by Mr Gove, who want to reduce levels of the virus to the point where it has effectively been eradicated.

According to reports, Mr Johnson also defied attempts by Michael Gove to at least have a local delay to easing restrictions in parts of the North West hit hardest by the Indian strain

A source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘While the priority has always been to save lives and protect the NHS, Boris has never lost sight of the economic impact. 

‘And, critically, he has been keen to weigh the data rather than be panicked into rash moves.’

Last night senior Tory MP William Wragg said: ‘I would urge the PM to do all he can – subject to the scientific data, of course – to press on with the roadmap and stick to the plan to relax Covid-related restrictions on June 21.’

Attention in government is now switching to the longer-term effects of the pandemic – not just on the economy, but the health impact of cancelled operations and missed diagnoses as well as the strain on public services caused by hundreds of thousands of ‘long Covid’ sufferers.

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