Boris Johnson ‘very optimistic’ all Covid restrictions will end on 21 June

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Boris Johnson has said he is “very optimistic” all restrictions on normal life in England will end on 21 June, saying the government will continue to provide economic support to businesses until they can operate as normal – appearing to confirm that many financial packages will be extended in the chancellor’s March budget.

Johnson said the government would “continue to put our arms around everybody” during the pandemic, when asked about unemployment, but suggested the coronavirus crisis had “accelerated” changes that had been happening naturally to the economy.

“There will be changes obviously as a result of the way the economy has been changing naturally,” he said. “What we will do is continue to put our arms around everybody in the country to look after them throughout the pandemic, as we have.”

Johnson and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, are under pressure to extend support schemes such as furlough and business rates relief, as well as extend the universal credit uplift.

The prime minister, who has said he will look at “data not dates”, nonetheless said he was hopeful all restrictions could end by the final date in his roadmap.

“I’m hopeful but obviously nothing can be guaranteed and it all depends on the way we continue to be prudent and continue to follow the guidance in each stage,” he told reporters during a visit to Sedgehill academy in Lewisham, south-east London…

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