June 21 on brink! Rishi Sunak ‘willing to accept’ four-week delay to ending lockdown rules

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A Whitehall source close to the Chancellor of the Exchequer said Mr Sunak is not fixated on holding to June 21 date for an end to lockdown conditions. Speaking to the Guardian the source said the Chancellor was willing to accept a delay of up to four weeks and that the Treasury’s main concern “is that freedoms are irreversible and businesses have clarity.” The news comes as the Government has announced it will continue to scrutinise data on cases and hospitalisations over the days approaching June 21.

With the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be considering a two-week delay in ending lockdown restrictions.

Government scientists have been telling Mr Johnson that the Delta viral strain, B.1.617.2, is exploding throughout the UK.

The Health Secretary announced today that the Delta strain is at least 40 percent more infectious.

Mr Johnson is set to make an announcement on the June 21 lockdown lifting date on Monday.

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And, the Prime Minister has said it is “data, not dates” that will finally decide whether lockdown restrictions are eased on June 21.

At a cabinet meeting today, Mr Johnson said: “While the relationship between cases and hospitalisations has changed, we must continue to look at the data carefully ahead of making a decision on step four.”

The Chancellor is expected to allow pandemic financial relief, such as the furlough scheme, to taper off gradually.

This will reduce the impact of any delay that the Government may make to lifting the lockdown.

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If there is a delay, Mr Sunak is touted as preferring a clean delay to the June 21 reopening rather than a gradual reduction in restrictions.

If Mr Johnson delays the lifting of lockdown measures many Conservative backbenchers will be infuriated.

Today, a former Conservative minister Steve Baker argued that the date labelled “freedom day” should go ahead.

Mr Baker said lifting restriction on June 21 was the “last chance” to save sectors crippled by the pandemic, such as the hospitality industry.

Mr Baker, the vice-chair of the Covid Recovery Group of backbench MPs, said June 21 would “make life worth living” in the UK.

He said it was now time to allow the public to “reconnect with family and friends and regain our mental health”.

He pointed to the fact that most over-50s have now been vaccinated and added: “These groups represent about 99 percent of Covid deaths and about 80 percent of hospitalisations.

“As of today, according to announcements made by the government, these groups should all have been offered a chance to have had a second dose.

“It would be helpful for the government to clarify that this has been achieved.

“If this brilliant milestone isn’t enough to convince ministers that we need to lift all remaining restrictions, especially social distancing requirements, on June 21, nothing will ever get us out of this.”

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