Boris Johnson has announced that there will be a four-week delay for lockdown easing, with the initial date for the relaxation of social distancing measures in England on 21st June pushed back to 19th July.
The delay comes amidst the rise in cases of the new Delta variant, which now accounts for the majority of coronavirus cases in the UK, and the risk of a substantial third wave as numbers are said to have risen faster than projected.
Speaking at the press conference, Johnson said, "As things stand — and on the basis of the evidence I can see right now — I am confident we will not need any more than four weeks, and we won’t need to go beyond 19th July. It is unmistakably clear the vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll-out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves.
"But now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now we have the chance — in the next four weeks — to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people. And once the adults of this country have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, which is what we can achieve in a short space of time, we will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalisations down, to live with this disease, and to complete our cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom."
As with previous lockdown easing, restrictions being eased on 19th July will be subject to the UK Government's four tests. These relate to the vaccine rollout, that the vaccines continue to sufficiently reduce hospitalisations and deaths due to coronavirus, that infection rates do not put the NHS at risk of unsustainable pressure, and the assessment of the risks of new variants of concern.
Responding to the news of the delay, Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill said Johnson had "switched the lights off" for the nighttime industry.
“This is a hugely devastating blow for the very industries that have been hardest hit by this pandemic," Kill said. "Many businesses have not survived this pandemic and others are on a financial cliff-edge, unable to operate viably. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have already been lost, a huge pool of creative talent has been swept away, and we have been left to suffer extreme financial hardship.
“This delay will drive confidence in the sector to a new low, culminating in more of our workforce being forced to leave the industry, and customers, who have been starved of social engagement, attending illegal unregulated events in place of businesses that are well-operated, licensed and regulated.”
Earlier today (14th June), the NTIA shared details of a survey of the NTIA's member businesses that showed one in four will not survive longer than a month without more support, and 50% will not survive longer than two months without such help.