Boris Johnson has told Tory MPs he wants to return to 'near-normality' in July as he hails British 'good sense' over the lockdown and announces £93million to bring forward the opening of a research centre to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking to 100 of his colleagues via video link, the Prime Minister said he would take 'grandmother steps' to ease the rules, but only if Britons comply with the current lockdown measures. He also confirmed that Commons discussions will resume on June 2.
It comes as Mr Johnson declares British people's 'fortitude' will enable them to survive the Covid-19 crisis and regain 'the freedoms they hold dear'.
He says that the epidemic has brought out 'the best in humanity' and that the public's 'perseverance' and 'good common sense' will enable the country to 'inch forwards' out of lockdown and towards 'much-missed normality'.
Writing in yesterday's Mail on Sunday, Mr Johnson also announces that an Oxfordshire research centre will be opening a year ahead of schedule in an attempt to fast-track a vaccine against the coronavirus.
The Prime Minister says that the epidemic has brought out 'the best in humanity' and that the public's 'perseverance' and 'good common sense' will enable the country to 'inch forwards' out of lockdown and towards 'much-missed normality'
up of anti-lockdown protesters are pictured above in Hyde Park. As part of the gradual relaxation, it is also understood that the Covid-19 taskforces in each Government department are being gradually wound-up over the coming weeks
Visitors flock to Durdle Door in Dorset on a day of hot sunshine on the first weekend after the lockdown restrictions were eased. Boris Johnson said the plans will only take place if Britons comply with the current lockdown measures
An MP listening in on the video call told The Sun: 'Boris told us he is determined that the country should be as close to normality again before the end of July.
'But he was clear that it all depends on the country meeting the conditions that have been set for tackling the virus.
'Most importantly that means bringing down the infection rate – and that can only be achieved if we continue to obey the rules on social distancing to help stop it spreading.'
The British government will invest up to £93million to accelerate construction of a new vaccines centre, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said on Saturday.
The funding will ensure the new centre opens in Summer 2021, a year ahead of schedule, the department said.
The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), which is currently under construction, is a key component of the government's programme to ensure that once a coronavirus vaccine is available it can be rolled out quickly in mass quantities, the department said.
Mr Johnson's exclusive article will be seen as an attempt to draw a line under the chaotic days in Westminster which followed his televised address to the nation last Sunday, which left many people confused about the rules about meeting friends and family.
The Prime Minister clarifies today: 'You can now spend as much time as you like outdoors, for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing. You can meet one other person from a different household outdoors, provided you maintain social distancing.
'You can exercise outdoors as often as you wish and play sport. Even with these changes, it's vital that people stay alert, keep their distance from others and carry on washing their hands regularly'.
Mr Johnson's remarks come as he is understood to have started work on a major speech to be delivered in the middle of next month, which will lay out his detailed plan to rebuild Britain after the crisis.
One official involved in the work said that the speech would use the 'three pillars' of education, technology and infrastructure to set out his vision of a post-Covid Britain – although a senior source cautioned that it was 'far too early' to say what the speech would contain.
The Prime Minister is also battling to contain a series of territorial battles in his Cabinet over the response to the crisis, with Michael Gove at the centre of most of them.
Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been engaged in a long-running turf war with Health Secretary Matt Hancock over issues such as the supply of medical equipment and protective kit.
Mr Hancock, in turn, has become increasingly fractious with colleagues from the Prime Minister downwards.
It's understood that there is major concern in the Cabinet that if the lockdown continues, more and more Britons will become paralysed by what they call 'FOGO' – fear of going out – making it even hard to get people back to work
Advisers say life in Britain will not return completely to normal until more than 70 per cent of the population have been immunised against the virus.
The new Vaccines Manufacturing And Innovation Centre in Oxfordshire will be the UK's first not-for-profit organisation to develop and advance the mass production of vaccines.
Before an effective vaccine is developed, Ministers are pinning their hopes on the roll-out of 'game-changing' antibody tests which will show who might have some form of immunity to Covid-19. Some estimates say that close to 20 million people could already be immune and be able to work and socialise as normal.
It follows a week in which Mr Johnson faced criticism over his announcement of the easing of the lockdown restrictions in England.