Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed the rumours that the final step in the roadmap to unlocking from coronavirus restrictions will be delayed.
Due to the rise of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the UK over recent weeks, the government’s scientists recommended to Johnson that it would be too risky to imminently relax restrictions in England that could have been lifted on 21 June at the earliest.
This means that hospitality venues will still have to have social distancing and Covid-safe measures in place until up to 19 July, though the Prime Minister detailed that there would be a review of this on 5 July.
He said in his address to the nation last night (14 June): “As the February roadmap explicitly predicted, this opening up over the last three steps has inevitably been accompanied by more infection and more hospitalisation.
“With every day that goes by we are better protected by the vaccines. Two doses provide a very high degree of protection against serious illness and death. But there are still millions of younger adults who have not been vaccinated and sadly a proportion of the elderly and vulnerable may still succumb, even if they have had two jabs.
“That’s why we’re so concerned by the Delta variant that is now spreading faster than the third wave that was predicted in the February roadmap. We are seeing cases growing by about 64% per week.
“We’ve obviously faced a difficult choice, we can simply keep going with all of step four on 21 June, even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines, or else we can give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.”
Therefore he announced: “Since today I cannot say we have met all our four tests for proceeding with step four on 21 June. I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.
“By Monday 19 July, we will aim to have double jabbed over two thirds of the adult population. And we will bring forward our target to give every adult in this country a first dose by 19 July. To give the NHS that extra time we will hold off step four openings until 19 July.”
Up until this point, the first three steps in this year’s English roadmap to recovery had proceeded at their earliest possible dates, with outdoor dining permitted from 12 April and indoor hospitality venues able to open from 17 May, though still at reduced capacity due to social distancing.
However, with coronavirus cases now at their highest level since February, the government has pressed pause on further regulations restrictions, which will hopefully give time to get more vaccine doses in arms in order to slow and hopefully reverse the spread.
Industry bodies such as UKHospitality have called for further financial support for foodservice venues in the event of a delay to unlocking, but the Prime Minister made no mention of additional economic support in his address.