Freedom Day has been delayed by up to four weeks
- Credit: PA
The Prime Minister has just announced the planned Freedom Day of June 21, 2021 will be delayed.
Boris Johnson said that "now is the time to ease off the accelerator" and delayed the coronavirus restrictions by up to four weeks after being warned that the move could lead to unbearable pressure on the NHS as well as thousands of deaths.
He announced that it is "sensible to wait just a little while longer" due to increased strain on the NHS due to rising Delta variant rates.
Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on June 21 as planned could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19 heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.
To avert this, Mr Johnson said during a Downing Street press conference that the end of all legal limits on social contact would be put back to July 19.
Until the full easing of lockdown measures, people must remember to
- Only two households or six people can meet indoors or stay overnight
- People should work from home where possible
- Caution will still be advised when hugging friends and family
- Hospitality venues, such as pubs and restaurants can allow groups of up to six people or two households of any size
- Sporting events, such as Euro 2020 games at London's Wembley Stadium, will have to limit their capacity
- Live entertainment venues, such as cinemas and theatres, will be at 50pc capacity
- Nightclubs will have to remain closed
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Boris Johnson hopes deaths will be significantly reduced by that point because two-thirds of adults will have then been offered both vaccine doses due to the delay being coupled with a reduction in the time between jabs for the over-40s.
Limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas will therefore remain in place, nightclubs will stay shuttered and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.
Downing Street left open the option of ending restrictions on July 5 if the data proves drastically better than expected but conceded this is “unlikely”.
Mr Johnson did, however, announce a limited easing of restrictions to take place from June 21 as he faces the prospect of a rebellion from Conservative MPs who are furious about the delay.
The 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as wakes, will be lifted, with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.
Care home residents will also no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving for visits in most cases.
Fans were expected to be able to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final in Wembley as the pilots on attendance of large events continue.
Mr Johnson felt he had to delay the relaxation after at least one of his four tests to easing restrictions – that the risks are not fundamentally changed by new variants – had been failed.
Officials also called into question the test to ensure infection rates do not lead to a surge in hospital admissions that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Modelling by the Government’s Spi-M group suggested there was a possibility of hospital admissions reaching the heights of the first peak in March 2020 if the relaxation went ahead on Monday.
Experts believe the Delta variant is driving a rapid accelerations in cases, estimating it is between 40pc and 80pc more transmissible than the Alpha variant first found in Kent.
Ministers were expected to hold a vote in Parliament on Wednesday in order for the Government to be given the legal powers to extend the restrictions.
Mr Johnson will hope the limited restrictions he has approved will reduce the scale of the rebellion on the Tory backbenches.
Boris Johnson confirmed that he was delaying ending England’s lockdown, with July 19 now the date earmarked for lifting the remaining restrictions.
He told a Downing Street press conference that the spread of the Delta variant meant “we have obviously faced a very difficult choice”.
“We can simply keep going with all of Step 4 on June 21, even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines and that thousands more deaths would ensue which could otherwise have been avoided.
“Or else we can give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.
“And since today I cannot say that that we have met all our four tests for proceeding with Step 4 on June 21, I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.”