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Easing of lockdown restrictions to be delayed by four weeks

The easing of lockdown restrictions is to be delayed by up to four weeks, the Prime Minister is expected to announce today.

Boris Johnson will plead for patience as he makes the announcement in a press conference at Downing Street.

He will say the delay will allow the Government to ensure as many people as possible are vaccinated by the time all restrictions are removed.

'Freedom day' had originally been planned for June 21 but will be given a new target date of July 19.

Both The Times and the BBC quoted Goverment sources tonight saying the revised date had been signed off by ministers.

The Times said the PM viewed it as the 'final stretch' before all lockdown rules are eased.

He is, however, expected to lift the 30-person limit on weddings and allow more seated outdoor sporting and cultural events to take place with large crowds.

But such a move would spell trouble for many outdoor events planned in Kent over the coming weeks.

The delay has been signed off by senior ministers including the PM, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Office minster Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

It followed a briefing by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

The UK recorded 7,490 Covid cases today, a 49% rise on last week, and eight deaths.

Craig Mackinlay
Craig Mackinlay

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay said he still believed that June 21 was the right time to ease restrictions, saying there were already signs that the pandemic was creating longer waiting times for patients who had other conditions.

He said: “The vaccine has been the link breaker. We may have some increases here and there but these increases are not translating into serious illnesses, hospitalisation and deaths and that link has very much been broken.

"Frankly what matters is not the number of infections there are but the level of illness and they are very very low; the number of people in hospitals across the whole of the South East is really really low. I think it is down to about eight last week.

“Then there is the other side of the ledger, which I have been very mindful of; civil liberties; people's freedoms; the state of the economy and businesses and other health corollaries. The figures for cancer treatments and missed appointments are growing because people are fearful of going into hospital.”

He added that the impact of a further delay would also be felt on patients waiting for elective surgery, like hip replacements where the queues are getting bigger.

“We need to look at things in the round, put it all together and make sensible decisions and I still think June 21 is the right thing to do.”

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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