Boris Johnson announces a four-week delay to lockdown easing
The Prime Minister today announced the disappointing news for millions of Britons that the June 21 “Freedom Day” has been rescheduled for July 19. He argued that the extra time was needed to prevent thousands of deaths and unbearable pressure on the NHS, after experts warned him about possible consequences.
He insisted it was “sensible to wait just a little longer” for all legal limits on social distancing at public events to be lifted.
Do you think Mr Johnson was right to listen to the warnings from his advisers?
And do you believe he could have been selective by choosing to perhaps lift some rules while delaying others?
Some companies have laid out plans for staff to continue working from home long-term so changing this rule would not have affected too many people.
The Prime Minister chose to scrap plans to roll back of restrictions on audience numbers at sporting events, theatres and cinemas.
POLL: Do you think Boris Johnson was right to delay the lifting of lockdown restrictions? Vote below
Crowds of anti-lockdown protesters descended on Downing Street today
Wedding were given the go ahead with guidance to avoid dancing and singing indoors and guests are also advised to socially distance.
Similar guidance was released for funerals.
While no restrictions have been made on travel in and out of high-risk areas in England, there is a traffic light system in place for international destinations.
Those travelling in England not share a private vehicle in groups larger than 6 people or more than two households.
After the new date of July 19 for the final phase was announced, many people questioned if this would in fact be the date on which they get their freedoms back.
Some sceptics took to social media to predict that the Government would renege on its July 19 deadline.
One person wrote: “As I said previously, a few weeks from July 19 the cycle of ‘rising cases’ news stories and leaks to the media of a new lockdown, will continue.”
The opposition to Number 10’s plan marks a significant shift in the public mood since last year.
In February and March 2020 as the virus swept in from China and took hold, Britons began hunkering down before any lockdown rules were implemented.
Conversations on social media and people’s behaviour in public suggests many Britons feel less afraid of catching Covid today than they did in 2020.
Do you feel more concerned about coronavirus today than you did in March of last year when England’s first national lockdown was ordered?
Or do you feel more relaxed about the pandemic, despite the emergence of the Delta variant, which scientists have warned spreads faster than the Kent strain?
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Demonstrators at an anti-lockdown rally in London today
Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to the lifting of restrictions
Many Britons who have not been vaccinated will likely be drawn towards getting tested more often due to the worrying data.
And people may also take an extra precaution this summer by scrapping plans to travel to areas deemed to be high-risk.
The variant has driven a huge surge in infections in Teesside, public health bosses have warned.
The dominant strain has been identified in Stockton, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool and Darlington.
Mark Adams, the South Tees joint director of public health, warned further surges could be on the cards for the region this summer.
Parts of hte North West including Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Manchester and Wigan have also been hit badly by the Delta variant of Covid, which was first discovered in India.
UK coronavirus map
A man holds a sign at the anti-lockdown protest in London today
Despite setting a July 19 date, Mr Johnson has left open the option of ending restrictions on July 5 if the data proves drastically better than expected,.
However, he conceded “let’s be realistic, probably more likely four weeks”.
At today’s press conference he announced a limited lifting of some measures as he faces a possible rebellion from furious Tory MPs.
He said 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.
Downing Street also said care home residents will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving for visits, though high-risk exceptions would remain.
Protesters outside No10 called for their freedoms to be handed back
But it was not immediately clear exactly how residents would benefit, as the current guidance states they can already leave for a variety of low-risk and essential visits without needing to quarantine.
Addressing the nation, Mr Johnson said: “It’s unmistakably clear that vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll-out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves.
“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.”