Boris Non-Committal About ‘Freedom Day’

Fears over the Indian Covid variant – which reports suggest is set to become the dominant strain in the U.K. within days – could mean the June 21st deadline for scrapping all the restrictions is delayed, as the Government says it needs more “time to assess the latest data”. Sky News has the story.

Boris Johnson said last week that the Government would be “saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like” on June 21st and “what role there could be – if any – for certification [having to prove your Covid status] and social distancing”.

The Prime Minister also told MPs that ministers would “before the end of this month, set out all the details about the marriage world post-June 21st”.

That date is when the Government hopes to lift all legal limits on social contact under step four of its roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions in England.

But asked about these announcements on Monday, Mr Johnson’s spokesman did not commit to the previously suggested timetables.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that ministers “haven’t ruled out” ending mask-wearing requirements on June 21st, and reports suggest that the Government’s domestic vaccine passport plans could be scaled back even further than previously expected. Other measures, such as caps on numbers attending large events, are, however, likely to stay in place past the “end” of lockdown.

Asked when the Government will reveal more details about the final step of the roadmap out of lockdown, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We need time to assess the latest data on this variant first identified in India so I’m not going to give a set time for doing that. We want to do everything possible to give people enough time to prepare.” The Sky News report continues:

Matt Hancock told MPs on Monday there are now more than 2,300 cases of the [Indian Covid] variant in the U.K., with 86 local authority areas reporting five or more cases.

The spread of the variant – which scientists fear could be up to 50% more transmissible than the Kent variant – has raised questions about the fourth step in the Government’s plan for lifting restrictions.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A full easing of lockdown restrictions is now unlikely, writes Robert Peston in the Spectator.

The prospect of the final easing of lockdown restrictions in England going ahead precisely as planned on June 21st is close to nil, according to ministers and officials.

“It is clear some social distancing will have to be retained, not everything we’ve set out for June 21st is likely to happen,” said a Government adviser. “But it is also possible some of the easing we’ve done today will have to be reversed.”  …

The ethical and political question for the Prime Minister would be whether to slow down or even reverse unlocking if the disease were on the rise but there was no significant risk of the NHS being overwhelmed. Ministers tell me that is the big question pre-occupying Boris Johnson

Why is this even being considered if there is no real risk of the NHS being overwhelmed? How can something as harmful and costly as lockdown be deemed necessary or proportionate? When did “Zero Covid” become the de facto policy of the U.K. Government?

Also worth reading in full.

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