Fears are growing that some Covid restrictions could remain in place until next spring – as Freedom Day is set to be delayed tomorrow.
Boris Johnson is expected to agree to put the final easing of controls on hold for up to four weeks when he meets senior ministers on his return on Sunday from the G7 summit in Cornwall.
It could mean that lockdown lifting – which had been due to take place on June 21 as part of the Government’s road map – will be pushed back to July 19.
And Government sources have told The Telegraph they fear the delay could mean some restrictions will remain until next spring as a four-week delay would leave a ‘very short window to open up’ before winter pressures on the NHS begin.
A senior minister told The Telegraph: “I am very worried the people who want to keep us shut down now want us to keep us shut down permanently and are aiming for ‘zero Covid’.
“Once you start delaying to the spring you’re making this type of control of people’s lives semi-permanent.”
One senior Conservative added: “I just don’t buy that in four weeks time it will somehow look completely different, and the scientists will say, ‘it’s fine, you crack on.'”
In an interview with The Mirror, the Prime Minister all but confirmed that it is likely that June 21 would be pushed back to July 19, as Covid cases continued to rise.
They have rocketed by more than a third over the last week to 7,738 – the second-highest daily figure since February after they exceeded 8,000 on Friday.
Mr Johnson said: “We are seeing some worrying stuff in the data, clearly. We are seeing the delta variant causing an increase in cases, we are seeing an increase in hospitalisations.
“The whole point of having an irreversible roadmap is just that, to make it irreversible, and to do that sometimes, as I’ve said repeatedly, you have to be cautious. And where it’s necessary to be cautious, we will be.”
Hospitality bosses have said further support is urgently needed if the Government chooses to push back plans to ease pandemic restrictions further on June 21.
Do you think Freedom Day should be delayed? Have your say in the comments here.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, highlighted that thousands of operators will continue to lose money until the last phase of the roadmap out of restrictions.
She said: “Hospitality businesses cannot continue to operate under conditions that leave them unable to trade profitably and so we echo the importance of Government support should there be any delay to the complete lifting of restrictions on July 21.”
Restrictions that are likely to continue until July 19
- Pubs and restaurants won’t be able to open to full capacity, with the number of customers allowed in limited by social distancing rules and table service remaining.
- The limit on numbers allowed into arenas, cinemas, theatres sporting events will also remain.
- Rules on face masks will stay in place – for wearing on public transport and inside public venues.
- Nightclubs – which were expected to reopen on June 21 – will remain closed.
- It will mean still only six people can eat together inside, with gatherings of up to 30 people allowed outside.
- Workers are expected to work from home for another month at the very least.
Not signed up to the newsletter? Try it out here
Sign up now to receive it for free here