Freedom Day: More than half of Herts residents welcome delay to lockdown easing

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Friday, May 14, 2021.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the delay to lockdown easing on June 21 - Credit: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that the easing of restrictions on June 21 would be postponed by four weeks, with the majority of residents in favour of the delay. 

Prior to the announcement, our survey asked people across Herts whether they wanted all remaining restrictions lifted on June 21, with 58.3 per cent of respondents saying no.

Just over a third - 66.7 per cent - of respondents said they would be happy with some restrictions remaining. At the moment, while restaurants and shops are open for business, large-scale events are unable to go ahead, nightclubs are closed and venues must operate within capacity limits.

When asked which restrictions people would like to keep, 60.8 per cent were in favour of keeping masks, 58.3 per cent wanted to continue social distancing and 57.4 per cent wanted to maintain a traffic light system for international travel.

A lower percentage (27.9) were keen to maintain a maximum of 30 people at weddings, wakes and other commemorative events. Fifty-two per cent of people surveyed said they would currently feel safe attending a wedding or event with more than 30 people.


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Of those surveyed, 31.9 per cent said they had plans that would be affected by delays to the roadmap, including weddings, parties and holidays, with one respondent saying they had wanted to visit their son and his family in Canada since they emigrated in 2019. Many said they deliberately did not make plans - both out of caution for health and safety and the expectation that lockdown easing would be delayed.

When asked if they feel safe to return to pre-COVID conditions from June 21, 56.9 per cent of respondents said no. Answering ahead of the government's announcement, 78 per cent said they would stick to the rules if restrictions remain.

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The new date for lockdown easing is Monday, July 19 - with 35.3 per cent of respondents having favoured a delay of one month, while 21.1 per cent felt restrictions should remain in place for longer.

Some people felt that there should be different rules for people who have received both vaccinations, while one respondent said they were willing to wait for "as long as it takes", adding "data not dates!".

Others criticised the government's handling of the pandemic, and said there should be tighter restrictions on international travel.

The latest data in Herts shows that the number of COVID-19 cases in the county has risen by 50 per cent since the end of May, with the Delta variant becoming 'increasingly prevalent'.

Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire

Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire, agreed with the council's decision to close play areas in Stevenage - Credit: Herts county council

Meanwhile Herts Public Health chief Jim McManus has supported the government's decision to delay, saying it is "the best course of action to protect our residents".

He said: "We fully understand that many of our residents will have had June 21 in mind for some time.

"But it is absolutely imperative - as was stated on February 22 - that we are guided by data, not dates. COVID-19 is not going to disappear on June 21 and lifting all measures on that day risks reversing the significant progress we have made."

He added that protecting residents is the "top priority", and "will help curb the rise in infections while allowing the vaccine programme to do its job and help keep as much open as possible".

Last week Mr McManus warned that lifting all measures on June 21 would lead to a rise in cases and hospital admissions, and could risk the introduction of new variants to the UK - undermining the vaccine programme.

He said: "We know the delay will be a big disappointment and frustrating for many people.

"However it is so important that people keep doing the basics - regardless of when the easing of restrictions is planned - so remember 'hands, face, space and fresh air'.

"Please also keep testing regularly, self-isolate if required to and get the vaccine when you are offered it."

Speaking on Friday, June 11, Mr McManus told the county council's public health and community safety panel that the Delta variant is now the dominant strain.

He also reported that 725,000 people in Herts had received the first dose of the vaccine, with 474,000 having received their second dose.


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