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Next stage of roadmap to go ahead but June 21 freedoms could be delayed

Next stage of roadmap to go ahead but June 21 freedoms could be delayed
Pubs can still reopen indoors on Monday – but the fourth stage of lockdown easing, to allow nightclubs to reopen, may be delayed (Picture: Getty Images)

Monday’s easing of restrictions is set to go ahead despite fears of the spread of the new Indian variant of coronavirus, Boris Johnson has confirmed.

But the prime minister warned this afternoon that it has the potential to delay stage four of the lockdown roadmap on June 21.

He told a Downing Street press conference it could be ‘more difficult’ for England to proceed to the next step of rules being lifted.

‘I believe we should trust in our vaccines to protect the public whilst monitoring the situation as it develops very closely,’ he told reporters.

‘Because the race between our vaccination programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter.’

He said because infections, deaths and hospitalisations are still at their lowest levels since last summer, there will not be a delay to the rules easing to allow indoor mixing on Monday.

But he warned the June 21 step of lifting – which is expected to see the end of most pandemic measures for good – may be affected.

This means the rule of six may remain in place and nightclubs may remain closed for a longer period of time.

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Roadmap won't be delayed despite Indian Covid variant surge

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A public health digital board warns the public of a Covid-19 variant of concern affecting the community in Bolton, northwest England on May 14, 2021. - England remains on track for the latest easing of its coronavirus lockdown next week but is taking no chances after a doubling of cases of an Indian variant, the government said today. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The Indian variant has become of increasing concern in recent days after a spike in cases, particularly in Bolton (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020 , a member of the bar staff pulls a pint in a Wetherspoons pub in Leigh, Greater Manchester, northwest England. - Pub and restaurant owners across England will breathe a sigh of relief on May 17, 2021, as months of coronavirus restrictions are lifted, allowing them to serve groups of six or two households inside. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The lifting of lockdown rules is still set to proceed on Monday, with pubs and restaurants reopening indoors (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

‘I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June,’ the PM added.

‘And I must stress that we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe.

‘Our surveillance and data gathering is now so advanced that if it was a danger of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure we would see the signs in the data very early on and could react in good time.

‘And that gives us the confidence to continue moving forwards for now.’

The Indian variant has become of increasing concern in recent days to the Government after it was revealed it may be 60% more transmissible than the Kent variant, which caused a third wave of infections over the winter.

There has also been a rise in cases of Indian coronavirus in recent days, particularly in Bolton and London.

The army is also set to be deployed in Bolton to help hand out tests and curb the spread of the virus, following a 158% surge in infections.

It comes as Mr Johnson confirmed second Covid-19 vaccine doses will be sped up across the country to tackle the spread of the new strain.

He said those over 50 and those who are clinically vulnerable will be invited to get their second jabs within eight weeks rather than 12.

‘And it’s more important than ever, therefore, that people get the additional protection of a second dose,’ the PM added.

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