Allies of Sajid Javid are keen to point out that he will be much less “nanny state-ish” as Health Secretary than Matt Hancock has been over the past 15 months. But Javid failed his first test by ruling out unlocking the nation on July 5th and he is now accused of being unclear about whether all restrictions will be removed when ‘Freedom Day’ finally arrives.
Conservative MP Steve Baker has told Sky News that Javid has actually “worsened” the prospect of all restrictions being lifted on July 19th by being ambiguous over whether or not guidelines on social distancing and testing will end at this time.
Baker’s comments on the likelihood of Test and Trace continuing to play a large role after July 19th are particularly fitting, given that the Government has just awarded Serco and Mitie new testing contracts – worth up to £687 million collectively – to support this system. These contracts could run for up to 18 months.
The Deputy Chair of the Covid Recovery Group says that maintaining some restrictions after Step Four of the lockdown “roadmap” would risk creating a “hollow and haunted society”. Sky News has more.
Asked by Sky’s Deputy Political Editor Sam Coates whether he welcomed the fact Mr Javid described July 19th as “irreversible”, Mr Baker said the claim did not go far enough.
He said: “I am very pleased he doubled down on it, but I would just observe he has doubled down on the existing Government line to take. In fact, in a sense, he has worsened the position.
“The impression which Matt [Hancock] was happy to create in the Commons was that once we got to Step Four there would not be regulations – freedom from regulations – now that’s difficult to reconcile with what’s now going on with events with Covid certification being trialled, with social distancing and test and trace – what actually is the world going to look like when we get our freedom back?”
Mr Baker said guidance on face masks and the one-metre rule should all be removed next month to ensure businesses do not feel pressured to follow them by default…
“I’m very conscious that even voluntary measures will be interpreted by the Health and Safety Executive and businesses and could effectively be compulsory. So until the Government stops recommending these things, too many businesses will become unviable.”
Worth reading in full.