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Boris Johnson has warned people to “enjoy summer safely” and keep to social distancing rules as pubs and restaurants were set to reopen in England.
Leading a briefing in Downing Street ahead of “super Saturday”, when the lockdown is eased across England for the hospitality industry, he warned “we are not out of the woods yet”.
Cautioning the government “would not hesitate in putting on the brakes” if cases surge, Johnson said “businesses and their workers have put in a heroic effort” to reopen safely.
He added: “But the success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly. We must not let them down.”
Underlining that the lockdown had driven down the number of cases of Covid-19 “because everyone worked together”, Johnson added: “We will only succeed in reopening if everyone works together again, because we are not out of the woods yet.”
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, went further, adding: “If individuals, families and firms do not take them seriously, the possibility of a second wave goes up sharply.”
Saying that a second spike was a “real possibility”, Whitty added: “There is no perfect time, there is no perfect, exact way of doing it [easing lockdown].
“What this is is an attempt to balance, as best we can, in a way that makes it possible for society to be as close as possible to normal, whilst living alongside this virus – which we will have to continue to do.
“This virus is a long way from gone. But, it is not going to be gone for a very, very long time.”
Johnson said the government has “all sorts of measures in reserve” in the event of a second wave, but that another national lockdown would be “the response of last resort”.
Local lockdowns, like in Leicester, were likely to be more common in the future, the PM said.
“Instead of closing down non-essential retail and hospitality nationwide, we will only shut establishments locally as required,” he said.
“Instead of shutting all schools for most pupils, from September we will only shut those schools where it is absolutely necessary to control an outbreak.
“We need to move away from blanket national measures to targeted local measures.
“So, instead of locking down the whole country, we will lock down specific premises, or local areas where the virus is spreading.”
It means from July 10, people who live in England will be able to travel to countries without having to quarantine for 14 days when they return home.
Spain, France, Italy and Germany are on the list – but the United States is not.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.