Sajid Javid confirms July 19 'Freedom Day' plan
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Boris Johnson and his new health secretary Sajid Javid have confirmed their intention for July 19 to mark the end of England's lockdown restrictions.
Mr Javid resisted pressure from Tory MPs to bring forward the date of Step 4 of the road map, but he said there was "no reason" why the July 19 deadline would not be met.
The prime minister signalled that the "terminus" date would mean going "back to life as it was before Covid as far as possible".
In his first Commons statement since replacing Matt Hancock, Mr Javid told MPs: "There remains a big task ahead of us to restore our freedoms – freedoms that, save for the greatest of circumstances, no government should ever wish to curtail.
"So my task is to help return the economic and cultural life that makes this country so great while of course protecting life and our NHS."
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Mr Javid said he spent his first day in the new job on Sunday looking at the coronavirus data and "testing it to the limit".
When "freedom day" was delayed from June 21, a review was announced which could have seen restrictions eased on July 5 – something that ministers have now rejected.
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Mr Javid said: "While we decided not to bring forward Step 4, we see no reason to go beyond July 19, because, in truth, no date we choose comes with zero risk for Covid.
"We know we cannot simply eliminate it, we have to learn to live with it."