Boris Johnson is set to scrap plans to shed England’s Covid restrictions on 21 June, with the new “freedom day” set to be pushed back to as late as 19 July.
Johnson is reportedly preparing to say on Monday that there will be an initial two-week delay to the 21 June unlocking, which will be extended a further two weeks if hospitalisations do not drop.
The Sun revealed this evening that Whitehall were preparing the plans at pace today, with multiple sources saying there was almost zero chance of 21 June going ahead as planned.
It comes after Public Health England data revealed today that there had been 42,000 UK cases of the more transmissible Delta Indian variant so far – a 240 per cent increase since a week ago.
The new data also showed that 90 per cent of Covid cases are of the Delta variant, which PHE data suggests is 64 per cent more transmissible than the Kent variant.
The seven-day rate of total cases has risen by 60 per cent in the past week, while hospitalisations have risen by 14 per cent.
The Financial Times reports government advisers are pushing for a four-week lockdown as this would substantially increase the number of people who have had two vaccines.
“They can predict how many in different age groups will get vaccinated and the modelling shows that after four weeks it has a major impact on positive cases,” said one official.
The delay to shedding Covid restrictions will mean that plans to increase crowd sizes at Wembley for the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 may be at risk.
The stadium will have 22,500 fans for the group games, with this figure planned to rise to 45,000 for the semi-finals and final.
The rule of six for indoor hospitality will also remain in place beyond 21 June, meaning plans to bring back large-scale indoor events will be scrapped.
The cap on weddings to 30 people will also remain in place.
City A.M. reported earlier this week that some UK nightclubs would defy any advice to stay closed if there was a delay to the 21 June unlocking.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said the sector was “getting to breaking point”, adding that a potential delay to reopening had sparked “panic and anxiety” for businesses.
Johnson’s spokesperson said that “no decisions have been taken” about whether to lift restrictions later this month.