THE lockdown lift of June 21 has been delayed – dashing hopes of a speedy return to normality for Brits.
After months of strict Covid restrictions, thousands will be forced to wait for a little longer after a last-minute U-turn.
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Speaking at a press conference tonight, Boris Johnson said: “This opening up over the last three steps has been accompanied by more infections and more hospitalisations.
“We must be clear that we cannot simply eliminate Covid.
“We must learn to live with it.
The PM announced that:
- ‘Freedom day’ is delayed – as scientists warn of hundreds of deaths a day if we don’t hold back
- Lockdown will be reviewed again on June 28 – and he may relax rules on July 5
- The wedding guest limit will be lifted from June 21 as the venue can decide safe numbers, but the dance ban and face masks will stay
- The full list of businesses not reopening this month
- And he vowed not to delay July 19 even longer and is confident we will unlock fully in 4 weeks
- The Rule of Six will stay in place and outdoor gatherings will be capped at 30
- Millions more Brits in their 20s can book jabs from tomorrow
- Face masks and social distancing aren’t going anywhere for at least a month
“There are still millions of younger adults who have not been vaccinated and a proportion of the elderly and vulnerable may still succumb even if they have had two injections.
“That’s why we are so concerned by the delta variant.”
In some areas, rates of the mutation are “doubling every week”, the Prime Minister added.
“We can give the NHS a few more weeks to give those jabs into the arms of those who need them and since today I cannot say that we have met all our four tests for proceeding with step four on June 21,” he said.
“I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.”
Instead the review will come back before July 19, and ministers will make a decision on whether to go ahead or push that back.
Boris said that thanks to the spiralling case numbers – now averaging around 8,000 a week – the four tests for relaxing more rules have not been met.
It means that people will have to continue wearing masks in shops and on trains for a little longer.
Gloomy experts claimed the numbers in hospitals would soar to levels of the first peak if he went ahead with the unlocking.
And they said the delay would save thousands of lives as more people get first and second jabs.
Despite the delay to Freedom Day, the PM announced the wedding guest limit will be lifted from June 21.
The current rules allow up to 30 people to attend weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.
But this cap will be scrapped from June 21, with venues allowed to choose safe numbers.
Couples having ceremonies on private land – for example, their gardens – can have as many guests as they wish, as long as they carry out a risk assessment.
The change brings marriage ceremonies into line with funerals, for which there is already no upper limit.
Brits will still only be able to meet up in groups of six indoors.
The PM announced social distancing measures capping the number of people who can get together are set to stay in force in England until July 19.
That means the rule of six will stay. It limits inside events to six people from up to six households, or two households of any size.
The legal limit of 30 attendees at outdoor gatherings will also remain in force under the new delay.
Children of any age are included in headcount but professional carers aren’t while support bubbles only count as one household.
The police can crack down on those who flout the rules, including issuing fines of up to £6,400 for repeat offenders.
Nightclubs were gearing up to welcome Brits back next Monday and bounce back after 15 months of Covid closures.
But the PM announced that Covid restrictions won’t fully lift until July 19.
It comes days after nightclub owners last week vowed to welcome back party-goers regardless of government rules.
Meanwhile, others have said they are prepared to take legal action.
Strip clubs will also remain closed.
Theatres and cinemas will continue to be restricted to just 50 per cent capacity.
Singer Frank Turner, who has raised money for struggling small music venues, said the delay would “tip some businesses into final collapse”.
Theatre producer Sonia Friedman warned “many livelihoods are under existential threat”.
FREEDOM DAY – KEY DATES
June 14: Boris Johnson addressed the nation and revealed his plan to push Freedom Day back to July 19
June 21: The original end of lockdown under the PM’s roadmap, which has now been delayed
July 5: The PM will run the rule over the data for a two-week ‘break-clause’ review. If hospitalisations haven’t increased significantly, restrictions could be relaxed early.
July 19: The new ‘Freedom Day’ date where all remaining rules should be lifted.
There will be no big group holidays for the next month at least, with fears that the delay could even be extended into August.
According to the original roadmap, June 21 would have included the final unlocking of the travel industry in England, as well as an end to limits on social distancing.
However, that too is now out for weeks to come.
Currently, it is legal to stay overnight in the same property as up to six people from different households, or an unlimited number of people from two households.
That cap was set to be removed, with no limits on the number of people sharing a holiday home together or staying overnight in someone’s house.
The limit will now remain in place until at least July.
Boris Johnson said in February that he was “very optimistic” about June 21.
While visiting a school, the PM said he was confident about a slow, cautious return to normality, adding: “We can really look at that June 21 date with some optimism.”
Cooped-up Brits even called for June 21 to be a Bank Holiday so they can celebrate the end of lockdown.
The last set of rules being removed were set to come after restrictions were slowly eased over the months leading into summer.
Outdoor team sports and activities such as tennis and golf also returned with people able to head to their local sports clubs again.
On April 12, non-essential shops and hairdressers reopened.
Families who live in different areas of the country were also able to travel to meet outdoors, as long as they don’t enter each other’s homes.
Now, pubs and cinemas are able to let customers inside with fans once again be able to watch live sport and music at stadiums and arenas, with social distancing.
Outdoor stadiums will are limited to 25 per cent capacity up to 10,000 fans.
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