Brits to find out next Monday if June 21 Freedom Day will move to July 5

BRITS will find out next Monday whether or not Freedom Day is going ahead as planned on June 21, Matt Hancock has announced.

The health secretary said ministers need one more week to pore over the latest data before making a decision on the end of lockdown.

🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates

Plans to drop all restrictions have been blown off course by news the Indian variant is much more infectious than first feared.

Whitehall officials have already drawn up contingency plans for a two-week delay to allow time for all over-50s to get double jabbed.

And ministers have suggested that some restrictions like mask wearing and working from home could be kept beyond June 21.

Asked about the June 21 decision, Mr Hancock said: "It is too early to make a final decision on that.

"The Prime Minister and I and the team will be looking at all of the data over this week.

"We have said that we will give people enough time ahead of the June 21 date which is pencilled in as the next step.

"And the critical thing is to see whether the four tests we have set have been met.

"That's in terms of the number of cases, and cases are rising slightly, the number of hospitalisations, which are much more flat.

"That's because the third test, the rollout of the vaccine, is going incredibly well.

"Then we have to look at the impact of new variants and we have seen a very significant impact of the Delta variant over the last month or so."

It comes as:

  • The Indian Covid strain is 40 per cent more transmissible than other Covid variants, Matt Hancock has warned
  • A maritime loophole allowed 600 cruise ship workers from India to fly here and avoid compulsory hotel quarantine
  • Boris will examine the Covid stats this week to decide over lifting restrictions on June 21
  • Brits in their 20s will get their Covid jabs this week
  • Twelve-year-olds are set to get the Covid vaccine from August under plans to tackle the Indian variant surge

Mr Hancock was gloomy about the prospects of June 21 going ahead, insisting the Government is "absolutely open" to a delay.

But today a fellow minister was more upbeat because of the impact the vaccine is having on stopping hospital admissions.

Solicitor General Lucy Frazer said: "All the data is showing us at the moment is that the level of infections are going up.

"But that isn't translating into hospitalisations in the way that it did in the other waves.

"So that is good news, but we have to keep looking at the data.

"The PM has to look at the data in relation to the situation on the ground in terms of health – hospitalisations, the vaccine rollout.

"But he also has to look at the economy and the impact on business and people's lives.

"I'm sure the PM will be listening to backbenchers as he will be listening to a variety of people but really these decisions will be made on the data."

It comes as Mr Hancock was warned against moving the “goalposts” on ending lockdown.

Boris Johnson will examine the latest Covid stats this week to decide over lifting restrictions on June 21.

The rule of six could be binned but face masks, social distancing and working from home are unlikely to be canned.

And bi-weekly Covid tests for school pupils are also set to continue after the school holidays.

The prospect of the date being moved back has been met with anger by Tory MPs, who warned any delay could cost jobs and more harm to people's mental and physical health.

Senior backbencher John Redwood told The Sun: "They should stick to the plan. Deaths and serious case numbers are well down.

"The vaccines are working. It's time to do more to rescue livelihoods."

Sir Desmond Swayne accused ministers of “wasting the advantages afforded by the success of vaccinations”.

“The original mission statement was to save lives by protecting the NHS. We've done that. The more it moves the goalposts, the more people will be made redundant.”


Former Tory Cabinet minister David Jones said the health secretary has acknowledged that most people in hospital Covid have not been vaccinated.

“The answer is therefore to get as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.

“It is not to delay the lifting of lockdown, with the attendant damage to people's mental and physical wellbeing and to the economy.”

Senior Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown pointed to "increasing frustration' among his colleagues over the restrictions".

"We've got to be really, really careful about getting panicked about every variant that comes along until we are absolutely sure there is one that is going to defeat the vaccine," he said

Pub and restaurant bosses warned No 10 delaying Freedom Day by even a few weeks will be another killer blow to their battered industry.

UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said: "It is crucial that the Government commits to dropping of restrictions on June 21.

"The ongoing uncertainty around the roadmap is causing significant distress to hospitality businesses and operators.

"Any delay in the roadmap would have a devastating effect on an already fragile sector.

"It would push many businesses closer to the cliff edge of failure, meaning more job losses."

She said if restrictions are kept ministers must immediately offer more financial support for troubled firms.

That should include delaying payment of business rates until at least October and a permanent lowering of VAT for the sector.

Even if restrictions are lifted face masks, social distancing and advice on working from home are unlikely to be lifted on June 21 amid concern over the Indian variant, the Telegraph reports.

The Health Secretary told Marr the variant – now officially known as the Delta variant – had made the decisions behind the unlocking "more difficult".

He stressed the importance of people getting vaccinated to "break the link between the number of cases to the number of hospitalisations."

The majority of people going into hospital have not been vaccinated and he called on the under 30s to also get the jab.

He confirmed the latest advice is that the so-called Delta mutation is 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant.

"That means that it is more difficult to manage this virus with the new Delta variant.

"But crucially, after two doses of vaccine we are confident that you get the same protection that you did with the old variant.

"So the good news is that the vaccine still works just as effectively.

"Everybody must go and get their second jab though because the first isn't as effective on its own."

Four tests to ease out of lockdown

  • Fall in cases – Data from Public Health England (PHE) suggests infection rates are falling across most of England with just a handful of areas witnessing a rise in infections. Fewer cases of coronavirus mean fewer hospitalisations and fewer deaths.
  • Reduce pressure on the NHS – A rise in cases leads to more hospitalisations, which is turn puts pressure on the NHS.
  • More vaccines – Millions of people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering.
  • A plan to control future outbreaks – Experts have said the government needs a plan that would mean future outbreaks could be effectively managed. They have highlighted that the biggest threat we now have is new variants.

Meanwhile, the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences said that the next week will be "absolutely critical" in looking at data on infections in the UK.

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London, told the Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme on Sky News: "We need more data and this next week is going to be absolutely critical in obtaining that data."

She said there had been a "significant uptick" in the number of cases in the past week or two.

"What we need to understand is what the risks are of that setting off another wave of infection, and also how well we can do in controlling it so the data that come through in the next week are very important," she added.

The Health Secretary has also said the rules on social distancing after the final stage of lockdown easing have not yet been finalised.

He was pressed on whether people could be asked to continue to abide by some lockdown rules, such as continuing to work from home where possible,

"We consider all options and the way we have set this out is as follows," the Health Secretary replied.

"There are a series of things at the moment, restrictions on how you can live your life, that we've said will be part of Step 4 when we can take Step 4, which include, for instance, the rule of six and the fact there are still some businesses that are closed.

"We haven't yet set out the approach to social distancing after Step 4 and that is something we are working on with our scientific advisers.

"We will be guided by the science, but ultimately it will be ministers who make these decisions."

"As well as that we have four reviews into international travel, into certification and into social distancing, for instance, and we are concluding those reviews and doing that work at the same time.

"This week we will be opening up vaccines to the under-30s and so we are getting a step closer to the point when we have been able to offer the vaccine to all adults in this country.

"Then, once we have got everybody having had their second dose, then you will get this protection that we are seeing at the moment among older people, you'll get that protection throughout the whole adult population."

There are reports that the June 21 Freedom Day may be delayed by two weeks with sources telling ITV News that plans are being made to push it back to July 5.

The Sun revealed yesterday how a secret plan is being worked on to delay lockdown lifting by two weeks.

Ministers and officials are working on contingency plans to move “Freedom Day” to next month, as well as retaining distancing and limits on fans in stadiums – potentially plunging the Euros into chaos.

It comes after a Public Health England report showed people who tested positive for the Indian variant – also known as the Delta variant – were at 161 per cent more risk of needing hospital treatment within 14 days.

And experts warned the Indian Covid mutation could be 100 per cent more infectious than the Kent variant, which caused the country to lockdown in January.

    Source: Read Full Article