UK lockdown: Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of restrictions on track despite EU vaccine export ban threat, says minister


BRITAIN is set to exit lockdown on time and be free from restrictions by mid-summer despite the EU’s threat of a vaccine blockade, ministers have vowed.

Boris Johnson’s roadmap to end all curbs on daily life on June 21 is “absolutely on track” even if Brussels moves to block exports of jabs.

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Health minister Helen Whately insisted the UK is still set to vaccinate the most vulnerable people by mid-April despite sabre-rattling from Europe.

It comes with Boris set to call Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron today and urge them to pull back from the brink of triggering a vaccine war.

Asked about the EU’s threats, Ms Whateley said: “We have vaccinated over half of adults in the UK, so that’s a huge achievement.

“We are absolutely on track to vaccinate those in the first phase cohorts 1-9 by mid-April.

“So that means we can vaccinate those who are the 99% of people likely to be hospitalised or to sadly die from Coronavirus.”

Asked about the lifting of restrictions, she added: “Absolutely we are absolutely on track with the roadmap.

“We’ll of course continue to be cautious, we want the progress and the easing of restrictions to be irreversible.

“We will be driven by the data rather than the dates but absolutely we’re on track with the roadmap.”

The health minister urged Brussels not to engage in “vaccine nationalism” and spark an ugly trade war with Britain.

She dismissed European “rhetoric” and urged the bloc to concentrate on fixing its own snail-paced jabs rollout.

And she insisted No 10 expects EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to stick to her commitment not to prevent companies fulfilling their contracts with the UK.

She said: “What is actually important is that the EU and no country should follow vaccine nationalism or vaccine protectionism.

“We expect the European Union to stick by their commitments. I don’t think this debate is helpful to anybody.

“What matters is for all countries to be getting on and deploying and vaccinating their population.”

No 10 has also said it does not believe an EU ban on exports to Britain will blow the PM’s roadmap off course.

But it is still battling to avoid such a scenario and is looking to build a coalition of capitals against the Commission’s move.

Boris has already spoken to the leaders of Belgium and the Netherlands – where the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are made.

The threat comes with backbench Tory MPs pushing him to end restrictions earlier due to Britain’s outstanding vaccination success.

No 10 is trying to stave off a rebellion when Parliament votes on a six-month extension to the lockdown legal powers.