Matt Hancock gives update on June 21st plans
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The Prime Minister is expected to announce the ending of social-distancing rules – which had been slated for June 21 – will be delayed for four weeks to July 19 at 6pm today. 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.
Mr Johnson will appeal to the public to show patience, with one last push to ensure that when controls do finally end it is “irreversible”.
However, Health minister Edward Argar suggested that some of England’s restrictions would be eased, particularly on weddings.
He stressed couples waiting to wed are “very much” in the mind of Boris Johnson at the moment.
Speaking this morning, Mr Argar added: “I’m not going to pre-empt what the Prime Minister will say later, but I know that weddings and people in that particular situation will be very much in his mind at the moment, it’s one of the things he has been looking at.”
During the briefing, the Prime Minister is also expected to address the issue of support for businesses.
Mr Argar continued: “I think he is very mindful of the need for businesses and others to get the support they need if they continue to be locked down or unable to open.”
But there is 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.
The Forest of Dean MP added: “The effectiveness of our vaccines at preventing hospitalisation means unlocking on June 21 could proceed safely. Any decision to delay will be a political choice.
“Variants and mutations will appear for the rest of time. We have to learn to live with it.
“If our very effective vaccines cannot deliver us freedom from restrictions, then nothing ever will.”
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The Prime Minister will be joined by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance for today’s announcement.
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