How long could the Government delay ending lockdown?

Lockdown: Radio guest calls for 'strict' measures

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The Government hopes to end lockdown by June 21, freeing Brits from restrictions for the first time in more than a year. Until recently, Covid vaccination and overall case rates for England had provided an overall promising picture, but that recently changed. The Delta variant has punctured a positive national spirit, with cases now triple what they were last week and deaths rising once again.

How long could the Government delay ending lockdown?

Months ago, scientists and health experts recommended the Government push back its May lockdown moves, citing the potential for an astronomical spike in Covid cases.

At the time, this meant allowing people back inside restaurants and pubs and gathering limits axed.

But ministers pressed ahead, and cases have since risen as expected, meaning the Government has one last chance to reconsider its current tack.

And ministers appear to have taken heed of warnings this time, with Environment Secretary George Eustace saying the Prime Minister would consider the situation “one step at a time”.

The final decision won’t come until June 14, but reports have since hinted at a two-week delay.

According to The Times, Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty gave a “fairly grim” briefing to the cabinet this week.

Data exhibited by the two officials suggested the timeframe would allow vaccinators to cover everyone aged over 50 with both doses and give them time to take effect.

The Guardian, however, has teased the Chancellor could accept a four-week delay to the June 21 reopening.

The publication revealed while ministers would continue to “scrutinise” data, a Whitehall source said Rishi Sunak was “not fixated” on June 21.

Instead, the source said he is more focused on ensuring the release from lockdown is permanent.

They explained: “The Treasury’s main thing is that freedoms are irreversible and businesses have clarity.”

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The Delta variant is now dominant in the UK and threatens to spread beyond several hotspots in the northwest.

In Manchester, the case rate recently doubled to 204 per 100,000 people.

In England as a whole, cases have tripled from around 3,000 to more than 6,000 in the space of a week.

The Government is now in a race against time to equip everyone with at least one dose of the vaccine.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock extended the vaccine programme to under-30s.

Anyone in the age bracket could book their jab from this morning, resulting in a “Glastonbury-like” rush for appointments.

NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens hailed the enthusiasm.

He said: “Pleasingly, this suggests strong enthusiasm for vaccination among people in their 20s, following hard on the heels of the millions of others who’ve already taken up our offer.”

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