Return to work ‘delayed for a month’ and nightclubs to stay shut as Freedom Day set to be postponed until July 19
A RETURN to the workplace is set to be delayed by a month and nightclubs are to stay closed as “Freedom Day” is put back to July 19.
Covid curbs are due to remain for up to four weeks more as an explosion of the Indian – or Delta – variant pushes back the final step of the government’s roadmap to exit lockdown.
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3Working from home is set to stay in place as the June 21 ‘freedom day’ date is pushed back by up to a monthCredit: Alamy3Social distancing rules are also poised to remain if Step 4 of the government’s roadmap to end restrictions doesn’t go ahead a week on MondayCredit: AFPWorking from home and social distancing are set to continue for another month after an end to restrictions on June 21 was delayed.
The Sun revealed last night that Boris Johnson is poised to delay Step 4 until July 19 after cases of the Indian variant surged by 240 per cent in just a week.
Under the plan expected to be announced, social distancing rules and the rule-of-six will remain in place, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Rules on face masks are also expected to remain as they are, meaning they will still be needed on public transport and public venues inside.
The limit on numbers allowed into arenas, cinemas, sporting events and theatres would also stay.
FREEDOM DAY DELAY
And nightclubs would have to stay completely closed if the June 21 date to end lockdown restrictions is pushed back.
Pubs and restaurants won’t be able to open to full capacity, with the number of customers allowed in limited by social distancing rules, and table service remaining.
It will mean still only six people can eat together inside, with gatherings of up to 30 people allowed outside.
Senior government sources have also said a cap on the number of people at weddings is likely to remain – after officials from Matt Hancock’s health department warned that they could become “super-spreader” events.
A two-week review will be included meaning Covid restrictions could be dropped on July 5 if hospitalisations stay down.
The decision to delay the June 21 reopening is set to anger MPs, business leaders and hospitality chiefs.
3Boris Johnson is set to put the Covid freedom roadmap back by a monthCredit: Reuters
A source told The Sun: “The last thing they need is a hokey cokey of in out, in out of restrictions.
“No one wants to go backwards, and we have to get this right first go.”
The Cabinet’s Covid Operations committee will meet on Sunday to thrash out a decision.
On Monday morning, the Cabinet will to make the final call on the June 21 date.
Mr Johnson is set to address the nation on Monday evening after making his decision.
ROADMAP: HOW IT WILL UNFOLD
June 14 – Boris Johnson will address nation and lay out his plan to delay June 21
June 21 – Original date set for ‘Freedom Day’ now likely to be delayed
July 5 – Boris Johnson will review and assess the data as part of his ‘two-week break clause’. Restrictions could be eased partially or fully if data is positive
July 19 – Proposed new ‘Freedom Day’ when PM hopes to lift all restrictions across England
The government will use the delay to see if the vaccine rollout means rising cases numbers do not spark a surge in hospitalisations.
It will also allow millions more people to be double jabbed.
Public Health England (PHE) analysis shows infections of the Indian variant have risen to 42,323 from 12,431 last week, a jump of 240 per cent.
PHE has also found the variant – which accounts for 96 per cent of cases across England – is 64 per cent more infectious than the Kent – or Alpha – strain and twice as likely cause hospitalisations.
But the decision to delay is set to bring fresh turmoil for businesses that have geared up to reopen fully on June 21.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has warned he could take ministers to court if they don’t allow theatres to open at full capacity from June 21.
The famous composer’s £6million musical Cinderella is due to hold its world premiere on July 14 at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London.
Kate Nicholls, the boss of UK Hospitality, said: “Any delay in the roadmap would have a devastating effect on an already fragile hospitality sector.
“A one-month delay would cost the sector £3billion in sales and push many businesses even closer to the cliff edge of failure, meaning more job losses.”
There were a further 8,125 Covid cases confirmed on Friday.
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association urged Mr Johnson to pull the brakes on the June 21 date to allow more people to get both doses of the vaccine.
Ccouncil chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “With only 54.2 per cent 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.”
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In a very hint that a delay was coming, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi warned against “squandering those hard fought gains” made by the vaccine rollout by lifting the final restrictions too soon.
No10 publicly insist that no final decision has been made.
But privately key figures say any chance of going ahead in two weeks time are “hanging by a very, very, very thin thread.”
Dr Jenny Harries gives her verdict on Covid data as Boris Johnson delays June 21 Freedom Day