The prime minister has said that the easing of all lockdown restrictions in England is “looking good”.
His comments come after increasing concerns over the Delta variant, with cases, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions rising at around 30 per cent per week.
The postponement of ‘Freedom Day’ – originally scheduled for Monday 21 June – has prompted criticism from industry, particularly hospitality and travel, as well as other MPs.
But speaking to reporters at a laboratory at Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, the prime minister said the effectiveness of England’s vaccine rollout offers hope that the July target is achievable.
He said: “You can never exclude that there will be some new disease, some new horror that we simply haven’t budgeted for or accounted for.
“But looking at where we are, the efficacy of the vaccine against all variants that we can currently see…I think it is looking good for 19 July to be that terminus point.”
Government statistics show that almost 75 million people have had at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Mr Johnson claimed 60 per cent of the adult population had received two jabs.
But there is concern that the country is in the grip of a third wave, prompting the race to reach a critical mass of vaccinations before winter rolls in.
He also spoke about easing travel restrictions, with the current traffic light system causing confusion at airports across the country for travellers desperate for a summer getaway.
Mr Johnson said he is “looking at” exemptions from quarantine for those who are fully vaccinated, but reiterated that “The emphasis is going to be making sure we can protect the country from the virus coming back in.”
The prime minister added: “Scientists are saying things like flu will come back this winter, we will have a rough winter for all sorts of reasons…all the more reason to reduce the number of Covid cases now to give the NHS the breathing space to deal with all those other pressures.”
“When it comes to travel we will certainly be looking at that but I want to stress that this is going to be, what ever happens, a difficult year for travel, there will be hassle, there will be delays I’m afraid the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus from coming back in.”