The final stage of easing lockdown restrictions in England has been delayed until 19 July to speed up the vaccination programme.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the delay of up to a month due to concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta variant – first identified in India.
The government had hoped to “remove all legal limits on social contact” from 21 June.
But scientists had warned of a “significant resurgence” in people needing hospital treatment for COVID-19 if stage four of easing the lockdown went ahead on this date.
Government figures show cases have been growing by around 64 per cent a week, and in the worst affected areas are doubling every week.
The average number of people being admitted to hospital in England has been increasing by 50 per cent every week.
Announcing the delay on Monday (14 June) Mr Johnson said: “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 four weeks and we won’t need to go beyond July 19….
“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.”
The extra month will allow the acceleration of the vaccination programme – with the target to give every adult in this country a first dose by 19 July.
The announcement means most remaining social restrictions will remain but there will be some changes from 21 June:
- The limit on wedding guest numbers will be removed – although venues will have to ensure social distancing can take place (similar rules apply to wakes).
- Care home residents will not necessarily have to self-isolate after leaving their care homes. They will also be able to nominate an “essential care-giver” who can visit, even if they are self-isolating.
- Out-of-school settings can organise domestic residential visits for children in consistent groups of up to 30 eg scouts and guides
- Large events pilots will continue, including more Euro 2020 games and a number of other sports, arts and music events
What are the remaining COVID restrictions in England?
A number of restrictions that were expected to be lifted will remain in place:
- Up to six people or two households can meet indoors
- Groups of up to 30 can meet outdoors
- Social distancing measures remain in place
- Table service only in pubs and restaurants
- Cinemas and theatres limited to 50 per cent capacity
- Limited numbers of people allowed to attend sports events
- Nightclubs remain closed