Boris Johnson bumbled his way through a Downing Street press conference last night as he set a new “terminus date” of July 19 for the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions.
The prime minister ordered a delay of up to a month to the final phase of his road map to end the lockdown due to concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta variant first identified in India.
The news was described as a “devastating blow” for the night-time industry, while hospitality businesses will also see trading impacted by continued social distancing.
“This isn’t even real words”
Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on June 21 as anticipated could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19, heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.
To avert this, Mr Johnson said during a Downing Street press conference that it is “sensible to wait just a little longer” as he put back the end of all legal limits on social contact by a month.
But people were quick to point out his ham-fisted delivery as he responded to questions:
Wtf? Some of this isn’t even real words pic.twitter.com/mADmLt9Hlk— Hilly (@HillyFoz) June 14, 2021
James O’Brien said he even got the date of the new lockdown lifting wrong after the PM said reopening won’t happen until July 29th, rather than July 19th.
He just got the bloody date wrong.— James O’Brien (@mrjamesob) June 14, 2021
One job, Johnson.
No further delay
The prime minister said he is “confident” no further delay will be necessary but was unable to rule that out, warning of the possibility that an unforeseen and “far more dangerous” variant could emerge during the conference.
He hopes deaths will be significantly reduced by July 19 because it is expected two-thirds of adults will have been offered both vaccine doses by then due to the delay being coupled with a reduction in the time between jabs for the over-40s.
For now, limits on numbers for sports events, theatres and cinemas will remain in place, nightclubs will stay shuttered and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.
Labour accused the Government of “incompetence and indecision” and blamed the delay on border security.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The only reason this delay is being introduced is because the Conservatives failed to secure the country’s borders and a new variant from overseas was allowed to take hold, and failed to put in measures like proper sick pay support and surge vaccinations when needed.”
The Night Time Industries Association said the delay would “drive confidence in the sector to a new low”, while pub bosses warned the delay would cost the sector £400 million.
Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire of Trafalgar Entertainment said the announcement was a “catastrophe” for the theatre, music and live entertainment sector, adding: “This delay is yet another bungle from a government that wouldn’t be given a single star in a review of its performance. The confusion and muddled messages are reminiscent of a West End farce.”
Mr Johnson did, however, announce a limited easing of restrictions to take place from June 21 as he faces the prospect of a rebellion from Conservative MPs who are furious about the delay.
The 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as wakes, will be lifted – with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.
The Wimbledon finals will be contested in front of capacity crowds and Wembley will be allowed to host 40,000 fans for its final four Euro 2020 fixtures as the pilots on attendance of large events continue.
Care home residents will be permitted to stay overnight with friends and family from Monday without needing to quarantine for 14 days on return to their residences.