LiveLIVE: Boris Johnson announces delay in lifting lockdown measures
Today (June 14) at 6pm Prime Minster Boris Johnson announced a delay in the lifting of lockdown measures.
According to the intial roadmap out of lockdown, the plan was for all restrictions to be lifted by June 21.
However, a recent surge in new cases, including of the ‘Delta’ variant which originated in India, has meant that scientific advisors have warned the Government to stall the further easing of the rules.
Keep an eye on this live blog to find out more.
Boris Johnson announces delay in lifting lockdown measures
Last updated: Monday, 14 June, 2021, 19:12
- Boris Johnson announced the delay in a conference at 6pm today.
- Potential rebellion from Tory backbenchers opposed to the move.
- Delay will see most current restrictions remain in place until July 19.
Johnson faces criticism
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The only reason this delay is being introduced is because the Conservatives failed to secure the country’s borders and a new variant from overseas was allowed to take hold; and failed to put in measures like proper sick pay support and surge vaccinations when needed.
“The British people did their bit by supporting the vaccine programme and getting vaccinated, but they have been let down by ministerial incompetence and indecision.”
People could still social distance after July 19
Boris Johnson suggested people may wish to continue social distancing after July 19.
The Prime Minister said: “People may want to keep maintaining social distancing, they may want to keep being sensible.
“But as far as I can see we will be in a much better position as a country to go forward with the full opening up that we envisage.”
Could the rules be lifted earlier?
Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “We will monitor the position every day and if, after two weeks, we have concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to step four, and a full opening, sooner.”
He said he is “confident” that no more than four weeks will be needed and that restrictions will not go beyond July 19.
“It’s unmistakably clear the vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll-out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves,” he said.
“But now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.”
What will stay the same and what will change?
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.
Boris Johnson announces delay
Boris Johnson has been forced to delay the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions by up to four weeks after being warned the move could lead to thousands of deaths and unbearable pressure on the NHS.
The Prime Minister announced the setback to the final phase of his plan to end the lockdown on Monday due to concerns over the rapidly-spreading Delta variant first identified in India.
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.
Johnson 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.”
Sheffield City Region mayor speaks out
Responding to the expected delay in the easing of lockdown, Dan Jarvis, Mayor of South Yorkshire says economic support must stay in place for businesses and people on furlough.
He said: “The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but it’s been particularly tough for businesses and people on furlough who have been living with uncertainty for months.
“With the worrying rise in infection rates, the need for a cautious approach is understood, not least to ensure more people get vaccinated.
“But this crisis is not just a health crisis, it’s an economic one, and any delay to the lockdown roadmap must be accompanied by the right support.”
Quarterly rent on commercial properties is due on June 23 and from July 1 businesses will no longer be protected from eviction. From July, the government contribution to the furlough scheme is to be reduced to 70%.
Mayor Jarvis continued: “It’s been a horrendous year for hospitality and for the music and entertainment industry, many of our venues in South Yorkshire have not been able to open for well over a year. Vast amounts of preparation will already have gone into getting ready to reopen on June 21. Many will have sold tickets, bought stock and hired staff in preparation.
“If restrictions remain, then support must remain too. That means no drop in furlough payments, no change to business rates relief and no lifting of the safeguards preventing evictions.”
Who has criticised the move?
Sir Keir Starmer has blamed the Government’s “pathetic” border policy for a delay to lockdown easing that is widely predicted to be announced later.
The Labour leader made the comments in response to threats from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to open his theatres to a full house on June 21 regardless of lockdown rules.
Speaking to LBC, Sir Keir said: “June 21 was supposed to be ‘Freedom Day’, and why are we not going to hit it? It looks like we’re not because of the Government’s pathetic borders policy.”
Sir Keir criticised the Government for delays to introducing hotel quarantine, the confusing traffic light system for foreign travel, and the decision to delay putting India on the red list until late April.
“The net result of (the Prime Minister’s) pathetic approach is that we’re going to have four weeks more of this.”
When pressed on Lord Lloyd Webber’s claims he is ready to be arrested, Sir Keir said: “I have to tell him to obey the rules and obey the law, of course I do. But I do understand the frustration.”
Tory lockdown-sceptic Sir Charles Walker said he fears further lockdowns could be ahead, when asked if he would vote against any delay to the final lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England.
The vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “So I just have an overwhelming sense of pessimism now.
“If you can’t lift restrictions at the height of summer, and we are in the height of summer, then you almost certainly are looking at these restrictions persisting and tightening into the autumn and winter.
“I don’t think the July 19 date will be met. If it is, it will be met for weeks before we enter further lockdowns.”
Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has criticised the expected Government announcement on a delay to the final lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.
He said: “Imagine the anxiety this has created among my industry for the last few days. It was only four days ago that Boris was saying he can’t see any data to steer away from the 21st of June and yet here we are now, it is going to be pushed back.
“The people within my industry, their mental health is in tatters and it has been like this for 16 months, a rollercoaster of uncertainty and fear.”
He added: “People are depressed and anxious, they just want their lives back.”
Mr Lord also criticised the way the public heard the news.
He said: “Since the rumour mill started, we know it is a leak clearly.
“The whole of my weekend I have been taking calls from operators, from employees, and a couple have been in tears.
“When you see pictures of the leaders at the G7 summit who are asking us to do a certain thing, the vast majority of us have complied with for 16 months, that then when they think the cameras are off them, you can see them all huddled together, no social distancing and, more importantly, vertical drinking.”
What have the experts said?
Health minister Edward Argar said that if the June 21 lockdown easing was delayed for one month, another 10 million second coronavirus vaccine doses could be given across the UK.
He told Sky News that while the number of people in hospital has been “creeping up a bit”, vaccination meant “we are seeing that severing of the link between the disease and hospitalisations and death.”
Mr Argar added: “I think that on that basis, everyone will recognise that there comes a point where we do have to live with this disease and recognise that you cannot go for a zero Covid approach, you have to live with it, and vaccination is the key to that.
“So I think once we have got those second doses in people’s arms, once we have got that level of protection up to around that 81%, then I think people will be more comfortable with it.”
Conservative MP Peter Bone said a delay to the lifting of restrictions should not happen “without really good reason” and that currently he “can’t see the evidence why we should be postponing our freedom”.
He said there should only be restrictions “if there is a very clear danger to society”.
Asked if he would vote against a delay in Parliament, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What I would do is listen to what the Prime Minister says, listen to the arguments, and if I’m not convinced that these restrictions are necessary then I would of course vote against it and I hope every member of the House of Commons will listen to the argument and make their minds up.”
It comes after scientists spent the weekend defending a delay, saying that the rapid spread of the Delta variant first identified in India risks a substantial third wave of infection.
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said that any delay to the plan for easing was “proportionate” to prevent further lockdowns.
She told LBC: “We need to buy some more time to have more people receive a vaccine.
“We’ve just got about half of people with a second dose and we know that in the face of this Delta variant, that second dose is really important to provide the protection that is needed to avoid more people going into hospital.”
She added: “If we can provide more protection to the population through vaccines, then it means that we won’t have to take a step back again… So this is why an additional four weeks, which is what we expect will be announced, I think is proportionate.”
Meanwhile, Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told the Today programme that experts were “still very worried about the small numbers percentage wise, but probably large numbers of people that are still unvaccinated in the higher risk groups”.
He added that the JCVI was “looking carefully at what the Scottish Government has done” with regards to urging over-40s to have their second dose at eight weeks, adding that “it seems to be a sensible strategy, and we will advise the Government accordingly”.
The move to delay lockdown comes as a huge setback to many businesses – particularly in the hospitality sector – which had pinned their hopes on a full summer reopening to recoup some of the losses of the past year.
Westminster City Council leader Rachael Robathan warned of the “devastating” effects on London’s West End if the end of lockdown is delayed.
“We are all braced for a delay today in the lifting of social distancing rules – while that will be extremely disappointing and devastating for some sectors, the Government’s priority has got to be to protect people’s health,” she said.
“But central London cannot afford any slippage in the fight to revive our economy.
“Footfall numbers are still down, office workers are staying away in significant numbers and central areas of the city are hurting.
“That makes the case for action now even more compelling.”
What is the PM expected to announce?
Boris Johnson is facing a Conservative backbench rebellion as he prepares to announce a delay to the final lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce that the road map easing earmarked for June 21 will be delayed for four weeks to July 19.
He will hold a Downing Street press conference at 6pm, accompanied by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
The announcement means that limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas are likely to remain in place, nightclubs will stay closed and people will be encouraged to keep up social distancing and working from home.
The move has been met with fury by some Tory MPs, with a vote this month expected to lead to a possible Conservative backbench rebellion.