Prime Minister confident of lockdown end date on visit to Birstall

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is "more and more convinced" that July 19 will be the end of lockdown and life can return to "something like it was before Covid".

Monday, 28th June 2021, 2:04 pm
Updated Monday, 28th June 2021, 2:06 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured during his visit to PPG Architectural Coatings, Huddersfield Road, Birstall. Photo by Simon Hulme

During the visit to Birstall ahead of this week's Batley and Spen by-election, the PM was pressed over the scandal which saw Mr Hancock resign on Saturday after pictures emerged showing him kissing an aide he had appointed to the Department for Health and Social Care.

After the images emerged on Thursday night, Mr Hancock bowed to pressure on Saturday afternoon and quit after CCTV emerged of him breaking social distancing guidelines to combat Covid-19 by intimately embracing aide Gina Coladangelo.

The long-term friend of Mr Hancock was brought into the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) first as an unpaid adviser before getting the £15,000-a-year role of non-executive director in September.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured during his visit to PPG Architectural Coatings, Huddersfield Road, Birstall. Photo by Simon Hulme

Asked if he regretted backing Mr Hancock on Friday when he resigned Saturday, Mr Johnson said: "I read the story on Friday and by Saturday we had a new secretary of state for health and I think that’s about the right pace to do things given that we’ve got a national pandemic.

"I had a long conversation with [new Health Secretary] Sajid Javid yesterday in which we had a very careful look at the data with colleagues and we assessed where we were."

The PM, who visited PPG Architectural Coatings in Birstall, spoke about Covid data and lockdown lifting, adding: "With every day that goes by we’re more and more convinced that July 19 will be the terminus date and that we’ll be able to get back to something like a life as it was before Covid."

Asked a second time about Mr Hancock's potential future in public life, he said again: "I read the story on Friday and we had a new Health Secretary on Saturday and I think Sajid Javid will do an outstanding job."

And pushed third time on reports that a complaint has been registered with the police over Mr Hancock’s breach of social distancing rules, the PM said: "Obviously that’s an operational matter for the police, not something you’d expect me to comment on but I think the crucial thing for the public for everybody is that I saw the story on Friday notwithstanding the difficulties the country faces during a pandemic, we had a new secretary of state for health on the Saturday.”

Mr Johnson also would not comment when asked if he had ever used his personal email address to conduct Government business.

It comes as Labour demanded an investigation into allegations that Matt Hancock and junior health minister Lord Bethell used their personal accounts for business in Government.

The Prime Minister told reporters: "I don't comment on how I conduct Government business. But I can tell you that we in this Government are getting on with focusing on the people's priorities."