England pinpoints June 14 for decision on lifting final lockdown restrictions

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confident of road map schedule despite spread of Indian Covid strain

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock says a decision will be made on June 14 on whether England is ready to lift the last Covid restrictions. AFP
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock says a decision will be made on June 14 on whether England is ready to lift the last Covid restrictions. AFP

England will decide on June 14 whether the final phase of easing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions will go ahead, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday.

The last of four stages of the country's road map out of lockdown is scheduled for June 21, but it could be delayed by the spread of the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

"We'll make a final decision for step four, which is the biggest step on the road map. We'll make that final decision on June 14," he said.

Thousands of cinemas, theatres, public sporting venues and museums in England are set to reopen on Monday.

The ban on foreign leisure travel will end and pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors. More people will be able to attend weddings and the advice on hugging friends and family is changing.

Mr Hancock did not rule out reversing the changes if necessary, but said that the hope was for a cautious yet irreversible easing of restrictions. He said there was a “high degree” of confidence that coronavirus vaccines would work against the Indian variant.

He said it was right to press ahead with the easing of lockdown even though the new variant could “spread like wildfire” among unvaccinated groups. He did not rule out returns to local lockdowns that affected cities such as Leicester last year.

There are more than 1,300 cases of the new variant in the UK and it is becoming the dominant strain in areas such as Bolton and Blackburn in north-west England.

But Mr Hancock said early data from the University of Oxford suggested that existing vaccines would work against it.

"That means that we can stay on course with our strategy of using the vaccine to deal with the pandemic and opening up carefully and cautiously. But we do need to be really very vigilant to the spread of the disease," he told Sky News.

“We have a high degree of confidence that the vaccine will overcome."

Updated: May 16, 2021 03:48 PM

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