Dominic Raab hints face masks and social distancing may stay after June 21 despite plunging cases and vaccine success
DOMINIC Raab today hinted face masks and social distancing could stay in place until after June as he warned Brits not to blow it now.
The Foreign Secretary urged caution in the "last lap" of the battle with Covid as there is just a "little bit more time left".
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But he said "safeguards" will remain in place until after lockdown lifts on June 21 on the final phase of the roadmap.
He told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "We want to get to a position at the end of June where we can get life back to as normal as possible but there need to be some safeguards in place."
When asked what additional measures might be need still, he replied: "It will be around distancing maybe there will be something around masks but I don't want to prejudge it."
Experts have previously said face masks could become the "new norm"- with Professor Lockdown claiming they may be around until next year due to new Covid variants.
And Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London said social distancing measures and masks may be kept far beyond current lockdown measures.
Raab's warning today came as calls mount to end the national shutdown early amid falling case rates and deaths.
But he argued "steady steps" are needed as he urged Brits to take caution over the next few months.
The minister told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "I know that people are hankering to go a bit faster but actually we feel vindicated at taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go.
"We're very close now to really turning the corner and I think we still need to be careful to go as I said we don't want to see the gains lost and the sacrifices that have been made undone.
"By the time we get to June 21 almost all social restrictions will be lifted so there's only a little bit more time to go, but it's right to make sure we do that in a careful way."
Last month some coronavirus restrictions were lifted – allowing Brits to go to the pub outside, return to the gym and visit all non essential shops.
And the next step in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown is set to go ahead on May 17.
From then, Brits can sit indoors in the pub or someone's home and overnight stays are permitted.
Britain's borders will also be reopened for international travel in 16 days, with “a handful” of approved countries published as soon as Tuesday.
If cases remain low,all restrictions should be able to be lifted by June 21.
But experts have called on the government to pull the plug sooner – with cases and daily deaths falling week-on-week.
Yesterday, fatalities plunged 78 per cent in a week to seven, while just 1,907 infections were reported.
The UK's Herculean vaccine rollout has also smashed every target – with a staggering 49,287,257 jabs in total given out.
The next stage of the vaccine rollout started this week with Brits over the age of 44 being asked to come forward for their jabs.
If the current rollout continues at this pace, Brits in their 30s could be offered a jab as soon as next month.
Hospital rates have also dramatically fallen – with more than a third of NHS trusts having zero Covid patients in intensive care.
But Raab cautioned: "We're at the end of really the process if you like, we've got two more steps to take, but I do think given the rollout of the vaccine, that's exciting. It's got people thinking about not just social interaction but of course things like hugging your loved ones that you haven't been able to do for a while.
"I do think we just need to make sure that in the last lap, if you like, that we are careful and we don't lose the gains we've made."
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