Boris Johnson Confirms Four Week Delay In Lifting Covid-19 Lockdown In England
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It was originally hoped that all legal limits on social contact could be removed next Monday (21 June), but 'Freedom Day' has been pushed back amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.
It means capacity limits will remain in place for pubs, restaurants, sports venues, and cinemas, while nightclubs will have to remain closed.
Weddings and wakes will still be allowed to go ahead with more than 30 guests, providing social distancing is still in place.
The delay could also jeopardise some festivals and will come as a huge blow to the music, hospitality, events and nightlife industries.
Following this, the fourth and final step on the roadmap out of lockdown is now scheduled for Monday 19 July.
The Prime Minister said: "By Monday 19th July we will aim to have double jabbed around two thirds of the adult population including everyone over 50, all the vulnerable, all the frontline health and care workers and everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid-May.
"And to do this we will now accelerate the 2nd jabs for those over 40 - just as we did for the vulnerable groups - so they get maximum protection as fast as possible.
He continued: "We will bring forward our target to give every adult in this country a first dose by 19th July that is including young people over the age of 18 with 23 and 24 year olds invited to book jabs from tomorrow - so we reduce the risk of transmission among groups that mix the most.
"And to give the NHS that extra time we will hold off step 4 openings until July 19th except for weddings that can still go ahead with more than 30 guests provided social distancing remains in place and the same will apply to wakes.
"We will continue the pilot events - such as Euro2020 and some theatrical performances. We will monitor the position every day and if after 2 weeks we have concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to Step 4 and full opening sooner."
The delay comes amid a steep increase in infections driven by the Delta variant - first identified in India - which now accounts for 90 percent of infections.
In the UK, 7,490 cases were reported yesterday (Sunday 14 June), with the seven-day average up by almost 50 percent on the seven days before. If cases were to continue to grow at the same rate, infection levels by the end of July could be as high as they were in January.
It is hoped delaying the lifting of restrictions will stop the rate of infection increasing further while the vaccination rollout continues. It will also give government scientists more time to assess how effectively vaccines are reducing serious illnesses and hospitalisations.
The move comes after many scientists warned of the dangers of pressing ahead with the 21 June unlocking date.
British Medical Association (BMA) council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "With only 54.2 percent of the adult population currently fully vaccinated and many younger people not yet eligible, there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge of infections.
"It's not just about the number of hospitalisations, but also the risk to the health of large numbers of younger people, who can suffer long-term symptoms affecting their lives and ability to work."
When the roadmap was first announced in February, the government said the following four conditions would have to be met before progressing to the next step:
- The vaccine deployment programme is continuing successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants.