Boris Johnson Expected To Announce Four Week Delay To Lifting Of Lockdown Restrictions
Boris Johnson is set to announce the delay later today (PA)
The Prime Minister is set to announce the final lifting of lockdown restrictions on 21 June will be delayed by up to four weeks.
Boris Johnson is expected to use a press conference later today to set out the details behind the reasons for the delay and whether some elements of the planned lifting will still go ahead next week.
There has been growing expectations the "freedom day" plans will be delayed due to the spread of the Delta/Indian variant across the UK - with the strain now account for more than 90% of new coronavirus infections.
The revised plans, which have reportedly already been signed off by senior ministers, will mean nightclubs will remain closed, while social distancing rules and the use of face coverings likely to remain in place.
It will also mean capacity numbers for pubs, cinemas and some sports will remain at their current level.One government source told The Times that the Prime Minister views they delay as the "final stretch" while vaccination rates continue to rise.
Ministers hope the delay will allow them to hit their target of offering jabs to all adults in England by the end of next month in a bid to reduce the chances of people falling seriously ill.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast health minister Edward Argar said while he could not confirm the plans that there had been a "concerning increase" in the number of new cases, and that hospital admissions were starting to rise again.
"Were there to be a delay, were that to be what the Prime Minister announces, we will see what he says and he will make a judgment if he were to delay it on how long by," he said.
"If we are going at a run rate of about 250,000 to 300,000 second jabs being done each day, a month gives you roughly that 10 million, which closes the gap… 10 million you have got to do to get from 29 million to 40 million, so that all 40 million have had their second jabs."
And he suggested further lockdown easing steps could be reliant on increasing the number of people receiving two doses of the vaccine, saying the data was beginning to show the link between catching the virus and becoming seriously ill was being "clearly severed" among those who had taken the jab.
Meanwhile, the minister hinted that some element of the 21 June easing may still go ahead, including plans to lift the 30 guest cap at weddings.
"There will be a lot of couples who planned, hoped, to do it, put a line through it, done it again and rescheduled again," he said."Not only does that cost money, but emotionally that is incredibly difficult for couples who want to have their special day and want to get married.
"Again, I’m not going to pre-empt what the Prime Minister will say later, but I know that weddings and people in that particular situation will be very much in his mind at the moment, it’s one of the things he has been looking at."
But the plans are likely to trigger fury among some Tory MPs who have been calling for lockdown measures to be eased faster.
Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Conservative backbencher Peter Bone, said ministers should offer a vote in the Commons on the plans to allow for an "open and transparent decision."
Meanwhile, one cabinet minister told The Times the decision was "very odd".
They said: "Why are we maintaining more restrictions this year when we have the vaccine than we did last year without? If new variants emerge we are coming to the point when we just have to live with them."
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