Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed this evening (June 14) that the final step of lifting restrictions will be delayed by up to four weeks.
The final stage had been scheduled for no earlier than June 21 but a rise in Delta variant cases of covid and resulted in a setting back of that step until July 19.
The final step involves reopening everything including nightclubs and large events; the end of legal limits on social contact “with appropriate mitigations.” Large scale events were also to resume.
Weddings and wakes
However, restrictions on the number of people at weddings and wakes will be lifted on June 21 as long as socially distancing is observed, the PM said. Venues must adhere to covid secure guidance, maintain social distancing and provide table service. All weddings in private settings, such as gardens, must have completed a covid risk assessment to ascertain how many guests they can host safely.
The PM said: “The Delta variant is now spreading faster than the third wave predicted in the February roadmap. We’re seeing cases growing by about 64 per cent per week, and in the worst affected areas, it’s doubling every week. And the average number of people being admitted to hospital in England has increased by 50 per cent week on week, and by 61 per cent in the North West, which may be the shape of things to come.
“Even if the link between hospitalisation and death has also been weakened, I’m afraid numbers in intensive care, in ICU, are also rising. And so we have 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 that could otherwise have been avoided.
“Or else we can give our 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 we have met all four tests for proceeding with step four, I do think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.
“By Monday, July 19 we will aim to have double jabbed around two thirds of the adult population including everyone over 50, all the vulnerable, all the frontline health and care workers and everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid-May.
“And to do this we will now accelerate the second jabs for those over 40 – just as we did for the vulnerable groups – so they get maximum protection as fast as possible.
“And we will bring forward our target to give every adult in this country a first dose by July 19, that is including young people over the age of 18 with 23 and 24 year olds invited to book jabs from tomorrow – so we reduce the risk of transmission among groups that mix the most.”
Pilot events – such as Euro2020 and some theatrical performances- will go ahead from June 21. Attendees will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.
Care home residents will no longer need to isolate if they leave their residence. Exceptions will include high risk visits including overnight stays in hospital.
The situation will be monitored and, said the PM, if after two weeks the risk has diminished, the last step of restriction lifting could happen earlier – possibly on July 5.
‘No more than 4 weeks’
PM Boris Johnson added: “As things stand – and on the basis of the evidence I can see right now – I am confident we will not need any more than 4 weeks and we won’t need to go beyond July 19. It is 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.
“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. And once the adults of this country have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, which is what we can achieve in a short space of time, we will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalisations down, to live with this disease, and to complete our cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom.”