The government’s plan to lift England’s restrictions on 21 June may slip as Covid hospitalisations continue to rise across the country.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi warned today that “we have to be cautious” and that the government would continue to examine the data until 14 June when a decision will be made.
Covid cases and hospitalisations were both up yesterday by more than 20 per cent compared to a week earlier, while the seven-day death count creeped up to 59.
The rapid growth of the more transmissible Indian variant across the country is thought to be the primary cause for the growing number of cases.
However, it was also predicted that the recent easing of lockdown to allow indoor hospitality to operate would contribute to higher cases.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote in The Observer today that Tory party in-fighting, as a result of Dominic Cummings’ explosive committee meeting last week, put the 21 June date at risk.
He said that “we all want to unlock on 21 June but the single biggest threat to that is the government’s incompetence”.
When asked about the possibility of postponing lockdown, Zahawi told the BBC today: “What I’m saying to you is we have to be cautious. We have to look at the data and share it with the country.”
Professor Linda Bould, a leading public health expert from Edinburgh University, told Sky News that the government should postpone 21 June.
“I think even for policy colleagues, including in the devolved nations, we have been hearing very cautionary messages and that we can’t commit to towards the end of June, the summer solstice date,” she said.
“I think it is too early to be charging ahead, I would like to see seven more weeks data and the kind of evidence I want to see, and all my colleagues, that the chains of transmission, the links between the fact that we had slightly more cases when we opened up but it is moving through the system to people who are becoming unwell.”
The government is currently undertaking reviews of social distancing and working from home that will report before any decision is made on the next stage of easing restrictions.
It was reported two weeks ago that the review was pointing toward dropping the one-metre plus rule and encouraging people to work form the office.
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng was bullish on Friday about ending restrictions next month, saying there was “nothing” in the current data to suggest a pause in the final stage of lockdown easing.
“As you know we’ve been looking at data on a daily basis, almost minute by minute. We’ve been very clear that we’ll be looking at the scientific data before we rush to any conclusions,” he said.