June 21: Will lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions still go ahead?
- Credit: PA
June 21st is fast approaching, but we're still no closer to knowing whether or not the planned easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions will go ahead.
This month's so-called 'Freedom Day' is seen as the end of lockdown, as the government hopes to "remove all legal limits on social contact" and the country returns to normal.
Will lockdown really end on June 21st?
Step 4 of the government's roadmap is scheduled for Monday, June 21, 2021. However, this date is now in doubt and could be postponed for a couple of weeks at least.
The spread of the Delta variant – the coronavirus variant first identified in India – is threatening to derail the planned route out of lockdown.
Plans to delay or scale down the total easing of restrictions later this month are reportedly being considered by ministers.
No final decision has been made yet though, according to government officials.
Downing Street has said plans for unlocking will be outlined on Monday, June 14.
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Here's the latest information on whether Step 4 will or won't take place.
When is Step 4 of the government's roadmap?
Remaining coronavirus restrictions are due to be lifted at Step 4, provided the government's four tests are met.
The fourth and final step of the Prime Minister's roadmap out of lockdown will take place no earlier than five weeks after the country moved to Step 3.
Step 3 rules came into force on Monday, May 17th, so the earliest possible date to move to Step 4 in England is Monday, June 21st.
As set out in the roadmap, four weeks are needed to fully understand the impact of each step.
The government has also committed to providing a further week’s notice to businesses, so they can prepare for unlocking.
What restrictions are due to be lifted at Step 4?
Step 4 of the government's roadmap is supposed to see the removal of all legal limits on social contact, and the reopening of businesses that had been forced to stay closed at Step 3.
This would see the relaxing of social distancing rules, leading to increased capacities at leisure and entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatres, music festivals and sports stadiums.
By Step 4, the government also hopes to lift the legal limit on weddings and other life events, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme.
When will we find out if England is progressing to Step 4?
The government has said that it will give at least a week's warning about whether restrictions will be lifted or not, meaning an announcement is expected on Monday, June 14.
Step 4 of the roadmap will only go ahead a week later, on Monday, June 21, if the data shows that the government’s “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met.
What can reopen at Step 4?
This stage should see all remaining settings allowed to reopen.
Places such as nightclubs, dance halls, and discotheques, as well as adult entertainment venues are currently closed, and have been all year.
June 21 is regarded as a “make or break” date for many in the nighttime economy, as well as the hospitality sector which has reopened for indoor dining and drinking, but with table service, seated customers and social distancing measures in place.
Step 4 should see the lifting of restrictions on social contact and large events that apply in Step 3. This is subject to the outcome of the Events Research Programme, and the reviews of social distancing measures and COVID-status certification.
The government will also look to relax COVID-secure requirements on businesses, subject to the outcome of the reviews.
The social distancing review is exploring whether existing rules, designed to limit virus transmission, can be relaxed in different settings.
The results will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on 1m+, the wearing of face masks and other measures may be lifted. The review will also inform guidance on working from home.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not ruled out keeping face mask guidance and working from home instructions in place after June 21 as a trade off for lifting other coronavirus restrictions.
What are the government's four tests?
Before taking each step of the roadmap, the government will review the latest data on the impact of the previous step against four tests.
For lockdown curbs to be further lifted on June 21, the following criteria must be met.
The four tests are:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- The government's assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new 'Variants of Concern'.
Impact of Indian/Delta variant
Currently there's growing concern about the rise in case numbers linked to the spread of the Delta variant.
On Friday, June 4, the UK recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases since late March, with a further 6,238 testing positive.
Public Health England (PHE) has said the coronavirus variant that first originated in India is now believed to be dominant one in the UK.
However, the vaccine rollout is still going well with 75 per cent of adults having had one jab, and more than half of all adults in the UK having now received a crucial second dose.
Officials hope the vaccine rollout has 'broken the link' between catching COVID and hospital admissions and deaths.