British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday that the next planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will be delayed by four weeks, until July 19, as a result of the spread of the delta variant. The last and fourth stage of the lockdown roadmap, dubbed “Freedom Day”, will now move to July 19 instead, amid a worrying spike in cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, which experts fear will result in greater hospitalisations in coming weeks.
Mr. Johnson said the month-long delay was to give the National Health Service (NHS) “extra time” and “few more crucial weeks” because of the concerns around the Delta variant, which has caused infection rates to double in the worst affected areas of the country. Under stage four of the roadmap, venues and events would be allowed to operate without capacity limits and the cap on guests at weddings would also be lifted. However, a further delay means entertainment venues like nightclubs and theatres and pubs and bars must continue to operate with restricted numbers. The guidance that “everyone who can work from home must do so” will remain in place. When Johnson first outlined the government’s four-stage plan for lifting the lockdown in England in February, he set June 21 as the earliest date by which restrictions on people gathering would be lifted. However, he stressed at the time that the timetable was not carved in stone and that all the steps would be driven by “data not dates” and would seek to be “irreversible.”