Boris Johnson has delayed 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 it is “sensible to wait just a little longer” as he put back the end of all legal limits on social contact to July 19, saying he is “confident” no further delay will be necessary.
He hopes deaths will be significantly reduced by that point because two-thirds of adults will have then been offered both vaccine doses due to the delay being coupled with a reduction in the time between jabs for the over-40s.
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.
Mr Johnson left open the option of ending restrictions on July 5 if the data proves drastically better than expected, but conceded “let’s be realistic, probably more likely four weeks”.
Some restrictions eased
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.
Fans were expected to be able to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final at Wembley as the pilots on attendance of large events continue.
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.
‘Better times are ahead’
Councillor Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council said:
“We know today’s news is frustrating for many who had high hopes for next week, however, there are still reasons to be optimistic.
“The vaccine rollout is continuing successfully and many of our local businesses have reopened safely giving us all the chance to once again enjoy so much that our city has to offer.
“Hopefully soon, with more people vaccinated, we will be able to take that next step safely.
“Throughout this pandemic, communities across York have come together and worked hard to look after each other. It has been a long and challenging period for us all, but I would encourage everyone to please keep going. Better times are ahead, as more of us get first and second doses of the vaccine.
“We are pleased though to see changes in the numbers allowed to attend weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, where social distancing measures allow. This will make a huge difference to many couples having their special day.
“Our Register Office will continue to support couples and will be contacting those who have booked ceremonies with us with further details. We will share more details when the guidance is published.”