Ministers have been told that a four week delay in easing all Covid restrictions would likely prevent thousands of hospitalizations, as Boris Johnson prepares to tell the English public he will have to wait up to one more month for the “day of freedom”.
The government’s roadmap on lockdown calls for the last remaining coronavirus restrictions in England to be lifted on June 21, but the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Monday that the schedule will be pushed back by two to four weeks amid rapidly increasing cases of the Delta variant first detected in India.
The Delta variant is on the increase in the UK, where it now accounts for over 90% of new infectious coronaviruses. Public health officials are concerned about the variant because it partially escapes vaccines, is at least 40% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first detected in Kent, and appears to double the risk of hospitalization.
Johnson and his senior colleagues were due to make the final decision on Sunday evening, after the conclusion of the G7 summit in Cornwall, with the wider cabinet to be consulted. The Prime Minister will attend a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday before returning to Downing Street to break the news.
Any delay will infuriate lockdown skeptics from conservative backbans, who worry about the impact on hotel businesses and have started to say they fear the government will never feel confident enough to lift the restrictions. Johnson declined to answer on Sunday whether the delay could be more than four weeks.