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Chris Whitty and Boris Johnson. PA Images

England's 21 June lockdown lifting to be delayed until 19 July as scientists seek to 'buy time'

UK PM Boris Johnson will make the announcement at 6pm this evening.

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson is set to announce this evening that the final lifting of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England will be put on hold. 

A Downing Street press conference will be held at 6pm involving Johnson alongside the UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.

Johnson is expected to announce the ending of social-distancing rules – which had been slated for 21 June – will be delayed for four weeks to 19 July, with the BBC reporting this morning that the decision had been signed off by senior ministers.

The move is however expected to lead to a furious backlash from some MPs within Johnson’s Conservative Party. 

The move follows warnings from scientists that the rapid spread of the Delta variant first identified in India risks a “substantial” third wave if it is allowed to spread unchecked.

Johnson is expected to appeal to the public to show patience, with one last push to ensure that when controls do finally end it is “irreversible”.

However, it comes as a huge setback to many businesses – particularly in the battered hospitality sector – which had pinned their hopes on a full summer reopening to recoup some of the losses of the past year.

There was deep frustration among lockdown sceptics on the Conservative benches who said there was no reason not to end the restrictions as those most at risk of death or serious illness are now fully vaccinated.

Former minister Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, said any postponement would be a “political choice”.

He warned that if the unlocking did not go ahead as planned, restrictions could carry on through the autumn and into the winter as other respiratory infections picked up.

Scientific experts have however been voicing concerns about rising cases of the Delta variant. 

Former chief scientific adviser Professor Mark Walport said the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 is rising, but not with the intensity seen in previous waves of the virus.

“Sadly we are in the grip of the early stages of a third wave of the virus and it is this Delta variant, the so-called Indian variant, which has a very significant transmission advantage over the previous Alpha variant, the so-called Kent variant – it’s about 60% more transmissible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

We’ve got 7,000 cases on average per day at the moment, and a doubling time which is somewhere around a week.

Walport said that continuation of the vaccine programme is vital as younger people can “occasionally” be hospitalised with Covid-19. 

“The more people we get vaccinated, the better chance we have of not having serious hospitalisations and deaths,” he said. 

The vaccine isn’t perfectly effective and a lot of younger people, in whom the infection is very much milder but nevertheless occasionally it does put people in hospital… there are a lot of people still to vaccinate – 50% of the adult population hasn’t had their second dose. So it buys time if we prolong the current state of social distancing.



Johnson will make the formal announcement after he returns to Downing Street from attending the Nato summit in Brussels.

After hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall over the weekend, the Prime Minister is thought to have spent yesterday evening going through the latest data with the senior ministers and officials most closely involved in the process.

The so-called “quad” of MJohnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were reported to have been briefed by Whitty and Vallance.

The latest daily UK government figures from yesterday showed another rise in infections with a further 7,490 lab-confirmed cases in the UK – up 2,149 from a figure of 5,341 the previous week.

The data also had England with a total of 35,971 positive tests in the past seven days at a rate of 63.9 per 100,000 people.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann warned against complacency as he said the situation in the country could change rapidly, with current modelling suggesting the potential for a surge in hospitalisations by late summer due to the Delta Covid variant.

UK figures showed Scotland had 6,035 positive tests at a rate of 110.5 per 100,000 as data released by the Scottish Government on Sunday said the country had recorded 1,036 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

Holyrood has said it will mail out some 17,000 lateral flow test kits to football fans heading to the Euro 2020 fan zone in Glasgow, where testing is not mandatory for access but has been strongly encouraged by health officials.

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