June 21 has long been branded as ‘Freedom Day’ in England – but will the final easing of restrictions go ahead?
More than 40 million adults in the UK have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine while cases and hospital admissions remain low.
Although cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, are rising rapidly across England, hospital admissions are yet to rise and cause concern, but some scientists say if it is as infectious as initial data suggests that could prompt a third wave.
June 21 has been earmarked as the day ‘normality’ can return ever since Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his roadmap out of lockdown.
But plenty of experts have warned against going ahead with the June 21 date amid fears of different variants, including the Indian variant which prompted India to go on the UK’s red list.
Will lockdown end on June 21?
The Government previously stated that on June 21 ‘all legal limits on social contact’ should be lifted.
This means there will no longer be restrictions on how many people you can meet, either indoors or outdoors.
June 21 is also the date nightclubs are set to reopen and limits on crowds attending large events will be scrapped.
This should lead to increased capacities at leisure and entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres, music festivals and sports stadiums.
However, the June 21 date has always been tentative and with new dominant variants and recent data causing concern there is still no concrete answer on whether lockdown will officially end on this date.
‘This will be subject to the results of a scientific events research programme to test the outcome of certain pilot events through the spring and summer, where we will trial the use of testing and other techniques to cut the risk of infection,’ the Government said.
Latest reports suggest ministers are considering delaying ‘Freedom Day’ until July 5 amid concerns over the Indian variant.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the Government is ‘absolutely open’ to pushing back the unlocking if necessary – despite Mr Johnson last week saying he ‘still sees nothing in the data’ to suggest a delay.
Pressed on whether the date could be postponed if the data ‘gets bad’, he told the BBC Andrew Marr show on Sunday, June 6: ‘We are absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen.
‘We said in the roadmap that June 21 is the date by which we would not take Step 4 before that date and that we would look at the data.
‘That is exactly what we are doing, so the roadmap was set up in order to be able to take these sort of changes into account.’
Meanwhile, Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), has strongly advised against the lifting of all restrictions on June 21.
While the nation’s vaccination programme has performed ‘amazingly well’, it is still too early ‘to put the vaccine straight up against the virus’, he cautioned.
He states the May 17 easing could already lead to ‘quite a lot’ of hospital admissions and a month delay could have a significant impact on the country’s battle against Covid-19.
Dr Hilary Jones gave his view on ITV’s Lorraine on June 7 saying lifting the restrictions on June 21 ‘doesn’t make sense.’
‘Why would we ease restrictions when things are getting worse? It doesn’t make sense to me,’ he said.
‘We’re going to offer it to under 30s in the next few days and we’re talking about vaccinating children aged 12-15.’
He added: ‘My view is if we can wait just a little bit longer until every adult is vaccinated, and maybe then children as well, we’d be in a much better place to ease restrictions.’
The government will be using four tests to work out whether England can go ahead with the June 21 lifting of restrictions.
- The success of the mass vaccination programme
- The reduction of hospital admissions and deaths
- The dropping off of infection rates
- That there are no new Covid variants in the country are causing concern
What rules could stay on June 21?
If England doesn’t move to Step 4 of the roadmap on June 21 then it is likely the majority of Step 3 restrictions will remain in place.
This includes the rule of six indoors and up to 30 meeting outside.
However, if England does move into Step 4 there could still be some restrictions in place and current rules tweaked.
This could include official work from home recommendations remaining in place, and maintaining face mask rules in certain public places.
When will a decision be made about June 21?
Downing Street has said plans for England’s unlocking will be outlined on June 14.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all working to different timelines as they manage the easing of lockdown restrictions.
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