Britain is poised to recover from the pandemic like a coiled spring, says Boris Johnson
Brexit: Rishi Sunak outlines plans for ‘levelling up agenda’
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Boris Johnson said immunity to Covid-19 is growing and getting stronger every day as more and more of the population is jabbed. And as he spelled out his vision for a levelled up Britain, he promised to “build back better” everywhere – so that everyone in the UK feels the benefits of its recovery. The PM warned the UK will only stay ahead in the Covid fight if people are cautious when rules lift on Monday. He said: “I wish I could tell you that this pandemic was over. I wish I could say that from Monday we could simply throw caution to the winds and behave exactly as we did before we had ever heard of Covid.
“But if we are careful, if we continue to respect this disease and its continuing menace, then it is highly probable – and on this the scientists are almost all agreed – the worst of the pandemic is now behind us.”
Latest figures show 81.4 million Covid jabs have been given in the UK. Of those, 35.3 million are second doses.
But a further 48,553 lab-confirmed cases of the virus were recorded yesterday and rates in all regions of England hit their highest levels since January.
The death toll remained comparatively low at 63, but was the highest day-on-day rise since March 26.
Experts said the third wave may have already peaked, but predicted rates will drop off slowly.
Professor Tim Spector, epidemiologist at King’s College London, also revealed people who have been vaccinated now make up 47 per cent of the Covid cases being recorded – and will soon overtake non-jabbed rates.
But he said those who have received their vaccinations suffer a much “milder” bout of the disease.
Mr Johnson admitted there will be “difficult days and weeks ahead” as the Delta variant spikes.
But he said the UK’s vaccine programme is building a wall of immunity “that is now higher and stronger…than almost anywhere else in the world”.
The PM was in Coventry, where he inspected a student-designed electric car at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, before declaring the economy is also on the road to recovery.
He said it is “slowly and cautiously picking itself up off the floor” so “there is every prospect the country is poised to recover like a coiled spring”.
Setting out his vision on how to level up the UK Mr Johnson said it is his government’s mission to end the inequalities that Covid has deepened.
He said: “We need now to work double hard to overturn those inequalities so…everyone everywhere feels the benefits of that recovery and we build back better across the whole of the UK.
“Even before the pandemic the UK had a more unbalanced economy than almost all our immediate competitors in Europe and pretty much every major developed country.
“And when I say unbalanced, I mean that for too many people geography turns out to be destiny.”
The PM said he now wants everyone to be proud of their communities – and set out a high street strategy to breathe new life into town centres.
Plans include giving councils powers to take over derelict buildings and turn them into new homes and a £10million taskforce to clean chewing gum off UK streets. The Government also announced £335million for 15 town deals that will fund regeneration projects.
Mr Johnson insisted his plans will improve the whole country amid concerns traditional southern Tory voters fear they will lose out.
He also announced a “more flexible approach to devolution” giving local leaders “tools to make things happen”.
A levelling-up policy paper will be published in the autumn.
Last night Local Government Association chair James Jamieson said the time is right for “an ambitious new devolution settlement”.
The plan was also welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry.
But unions were unimpressed. TUC leader Frances O’Grady said: “There’s been precious little to show for the Government’s vaunted levelling up agenda – and today’s speech will do little to change that.”
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