Boris Johnson faces a furious backlash from Tory MPs as he prepares to suspend the final lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England.
The prime minister is expected to announce that the end of social distancing rules – which were slated for June 21 – will be delayed for four weeks until July 19, with the BBC reporting on Monday morning that the decision had been approved by senior ministers.
The move follows warnings from scientists that the rapid spread of the Delta variant first identified in India risks a âsubstantialâ third wave if allowed to spread unchecked.
Mr Johnson is expected to call on the public to be patient, with a last ditch effort to ensure that when the checks finally end, they will be “irreversible”.
However, this is a huge setback for many companies – especially in the struggling hospitality sector – who had placed their hopes in a full summer reopening to recoup some of last year’s losses.
There was deep frustration among lockdown skeptics on Tory benches who said there was no reason not to end restrictions as those most at risk of death or serious illness are now fully vaccinated.
Former Minister Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs, said any postponement would be a “political choice.”
He warned that if the unlock didn’t go as planned, restrictions could continue through fall and winter as other respiratory infections worsen.
âThe effectiveness of our vaccines in preventing hospitalization means unlocking on June 21 could be safe. Any decision to delay will be a political choice, âhe said.
âVariants and mutations will appear for the rest of the time. We have to learn to live with it.
âIf our highly effective vaccines can’t free us from the restrictions, then nothing ever will. ”
Steve Baker, CRG’s vice president, wondered how long the country could âfumbleâ with restrictions that would have had âdevastating consequencesâ for both business and people’s mental health.
Conservative backbench Marcus Fysh said the delay was “disastrous and unacceptable policy”.
Mr Johnson is expected to make the official announcement at a press conference on Monday evening after returning to Downing Street after attending the NATO summit in Brussels.
After hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall over the weekend, the Prime Minister reportedly spent Sunday evening reviewing the latest data with ministers and senior officials most closely involved in the process.
Mr Johnson’s so-called ‘quad’, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove were reportedly briefed by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Science Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.
The latest daily government figures on Sunday showed a further rise in infections with a further 7,490 laboratory-confirmed cases in the UK – up 2,149 from the figure of 5,341 the week before.
The data also had England with a total of 35,971 positive tests in the past seven days at a rate of 63.9 per 100,000 people.
Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething will take stock of the latest developments regarding coronaviruses in Wales on Monday, which, according to the most recent figures from the UK government, had 597 new positive tests during the week last at a rate of 18.9 per 100,000.
The numbers remain just as low in Northern Ireland, which recorded 596 positive tests from the week to Sunday at a rate of 31.5 per 100,000.
Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann has warned of complacency as he said the situation in the country could change quickly, with current modeling suggesting the potential for an increase in hospitalizations by now late summer due to the Delta Covid variant.
UK figures showed Scotland had recorded 6,035 positive tests at a rate of 110.5 per 100,000, as data released by the Scottish government on Sunday showed the country had recorded 1,036 new cases of the coronavirus over the years. last 24 hours.
Holyrood said he would mail some 17,000 lateral flow test kits to football fans heading to the Euro 2020 fan zone in Glasgow, where testing is not mandatory for access but has been strongly encouraged by health officials.
British ministers, meanwhile, insisted they remained on track to secure an offer of a second dose of the vaccine – which offers significantly better protection against the Delta variant than a single jab – to every over 50 years by June 21.
However, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said this weekend that they wanted to use the extra time to overtake millions of young people.
He said that even though the vaccines had weakened the link between infections and hospital admissions, they wanted to be sure it was “cut and broken.”
The cautious approach was, he said, necessary to ensure that the unlock was “irreversible” and that they did not have to “yo-yo in and out of the measures.”