England’s lockdown restrictions will continue until July 19, in order to control the spread of the Delta variant. The Government won the vote to delay the final stage of England’s roadmap and the Prime Minister made the announcement on June 14.
Covid-19 measures are to remain in place in England for a further three weeks – despite June 21 having meant to be the date signalling freedom.
The extension sees nightclubs and other closed businesses remain shut, as well as social distancing measures staying in place; the rules of wearing masks and restrictions on groups of people meeting up inside and even outside.
Sajid Javid said in his press conference on Monday June 28, that July 19 will be "the start of an exciting new journey for our country".
The newly-appointed Health Secretary announced that he would not be looking to extend England’s lockdown further, stating that "with the numbers heading in the right direction… July 19 remains our target date."
Mr Javid replaced Matt Hancock in the role after the former Health Secretary was caught engaging in an affair and breaking social distancing rules.
He went on to say that "Make no mistake, the restrictions on our freedoms must come to an end. We owe it to the British people,… not to wait a moment longer than we need to."
Laws on face masks and social distancing are expected to be lifted by mid-July but The Telegraph understands that the Government will keep advising people to use these measures when ordering in bars and pubs.
The former chancellor admitted that July 19 would see the introduction of Step Four of England’s roadmap – but that the specifics "about all restrictions or which restrictions" will be set out in the coming days.
Easing up restrictions in England comes amid the UK’s successful vaccination roll-out, which has seen 84.6 per cent of the population receive a first dose and over 32,000 become fully inoculated.
Thousands flocked to stadiums across the UK – which became vaccination hubs over the weekend of June 19 – in a bid to beat the Delta variant.
However, those wishing to go on holiday are facing further restrictions. Although the UK has added more countries, such as Malta, to the Government’s green travel list, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging the EU nations to introduce mandatory quarantines for all travelling Britons.
The Portuguese island of Madeira is on the green watchlist, along with Spain’s Balearic Islands, including Majorca and Ibiza, and some Caribbean islands – but, overall, European travel remains limited.
Although the UK gave Malta the green light for travellers, the country will now refuse entry to Britons who are not fully inoculated.
Elsewhere in Spain, tourists from the UK will need to prove they’ve had both doses of the vaccine or a negative PCR test upon arrival.
While Portugal remains on the amber list for travel, the country will now be requiring travellers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival unless they can prove they received their second dose of the vaccine a fortnight prior to their visit.
UK government ministers are understood to be "working on" plans for quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated Britons – but Boris Johnson has warned summer travel will be filled with “hassle and delays” as he played down the prospect of freedoms for the vaccinated.
He also poured cold water on the prospect of easing the remaining coronavirus rules early, on July 5, refused to rule out future lockdowns and warned the nation should brace for a “rough winter”.
It came as Public Health England’s senior Covid official warned that cases of the Indian or Delta variant were "still rising quite fast" in areas of the North-East and London.
The variant is now the dominant strain in the UK and the latest scientific analysis suggests the variant is between 40 per cent and 80 per cent more transmissible than other Covid strains.
Dr Susan Hopkins, PHE’s strategic response director, also said a further lockdown may be needed this winter to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
However, other scientists have said the UK could open up "sooner rather than later" thanks to the huge numbers of people being vaccinated. More than one million jabs were booked in under 48 hours after rollout was opened up to all adults in England on June 18, according to the NHS.
The Government hopes that the extension of lockdown measures will allow more time for people to receive first and second doses of the vaccine to ensure protection against the virus.
Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?
As a result of the extension of lockdown measures, social distancing, mask wearing and limits on numbers for sports events, theatres and cinemas will remain in place for now, nightclubs will stay shut, and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.
But there are some exemptions, with the cap on wedding guests no longer applying. Instead, individual venues will have their own Covid-secure capacity limits.
Guidance issued by the Government for weddings of more than 30 people puts the onus on the hosts, who “may be the couple”, to ensure they are Covid-compliant.
The new rules require organisers to complete a risk assessment form before a marriage takes place, with the threat of £10,000 fines if guests break social distancing rules.
Prior to his resignation, Mr Hancock confirmed on June 21 plans to scrap the requirement for people who have had two Covid-19 jabs and come into contact with an infected person to isolate for 10 days.
Under the plan to revise quarantine restrictions, the 10-day isolation period could be axed in favour of daily lateral flow tests.
Care home residents who leave a site will also not have to self-isolate for 14 days on their return, a change some campaigners have been seeking.
It comes as the Covid reproduction "R" number has risen to 1.4, but vaccinating younger people should slow down the exponential rise in cases, scientists believe.
As per the rest of the roadmap journey, an update will take place two weeks into the four-week delay, to see whether the Covid situation has improved. However, Downing Street officials said it was "unlikely" the plan would change then.
Number 10 sources said Mr Johnson was "confident" that only a four-week delay will be needed, although doubts remain given the sharp rises in Covid cases and hospitalisations, with the PM calling July 19 a "terminus" and not giving a "cast iron guarantee" that lockdown measures will end on this date.
Cases would reach the January peak next month
The decision was taken after scientific modelling for the Government suggested a third wave of cases could see hospitalisations hit the peak seen in the first wave.
But it has emerged that modelling used by the Government to push back the June 21 reopening was based on out-of-date estimates of vaccine effectiveness, which assumed far fewer people protected by the jabs.
Downing Street is arguing that the four-week delay allows the Government to vaccinate millions more people, with the rollout strategy tweaked in an attempt to maximise protection.
The target for offering the first Covid vaccine dose has been brought forward from the end of July to July 19, meaning all adults should be offered at least one jab by the new final reopening date.
How many more could we vaccinated with the delay to June 21?
However, the Prime Minister said on June 21 that Britons faced a “difficult year for travel” regardless of whether he pressed ahead with plans to scrap travel quarantine rules for double-jabbed Britons.
On June 24, ministers were accused of making summer travel more "complex and confusing" after warning holidaymakers that their trips could be scuppered at the last minute.
The Government announced that 14 destinations – including the holiday islands Mallorca, Ibiza, Malta and Madeira – would be opened up, allowing holidaymakers to travel to them from 4am on June 30 without having to quarantine on their return.
Meanwhile, the Treasury is not announcing any new financial support despite the four-week delay, to the frustration of business industry leaders who have demanded extra help.
From next month the Government will cover only 70 per cent of wages of furloughed workers instead of 80 per cent, with businesses having to pick up the extra 10 per cent.
Hospitality and leisure companies will also have to start paying a third of their business rates bills from the start of July, ending more than a year of their rates being waived.
A Treasury source argued that more than £1 billion of grants are still available for companies – especially nightclubs, which cannot open – affected by the pandemic from local authorities. "We need to keep a balance in order to ensure we can recover strongly," the source said.