All the June 21 step 4 changes in jeopardy as Boris Johnson warns Indian variant could delay lockdown easing roadmap

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the rise in Covid cases of the Indian variant could halt the Government’s road map out of lockdown with the easing planned for June 21 at risk.

Saturday, 15th May 2021, 4:44 pm
A poster specifying social distancing requirements in a Covid secure office workplace
A poster specifying social distancing requirements in a Covid secure office workplace

The Indian variant is one of four strains designated as “of concern” by UK authorities, as well as those which emerged from Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

Step four – the last step in the government’s roadmap of easing lockdown restrictions – was due to go ahead on June 21 but the Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in the latest Downing Street briefing that this is now under threat due to the new variant.

The Prime Minister is pushing ahead with the easing from June 17 which will see indoor hospitality reopen for the first time this year.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Friday May 14, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

According to Public Health England (PHE), data shows a steep rise in cases associated with B1617.2 which has been designated as a “variant of concern”.

There are now 1,313 confirmed cases of the B1617.2 variant in the UK, with the majority of cases found in the North West, mainly in Bolton, Sefton in Merseyside and Blackburn in Lancashire.

The Prime Minister said on Friday, May 14 that the Indian variant could make it “more difficult” for England to move to the final stage of the road map, but not “impossible”.

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All the June 21 step 4 changes that are at risk:

- Removal of all legal limits on social contact which includes at weddings and other life events.

The government hopes to remove all restrictions on social contact by June 21, but this could be delayed due to the Indian variant.

- Reopening of all everything up to and including nightclubs.

Nightclubs and other venues were closed in March last year and haven’t opened their doors to customers since.

It is hoped all businesses will be able to reopen in June but this date could now be disrupted.

- Large events such as festivals and theatre performances above the limits of step three.

Larger events will be piloted using “enhanced testing” from Monday, May 17 before further restrictions are hoped to be eased in June.

- Wearing facemasks and social distancing

The government was set to review the one metre plus social distancing advice and rules around wearing facemasks ahead of step 4 with the view that they may be lifted by June 21, depending on the outcome of the review.

- Working from home

Guidance around working from home was also set to be reviewed before June 21, it currently remains that people should continue to work at home wherever possible.

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