Scientists warn there could STILL be hundreds of Covid deaths a day even after delay of Freedom Day

Britain could still suffer hundreds of Covid deaths every day despite Freedom Day being pushed back by four weeks, one of the Government’s leading scientific advisers warned today.

Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE, said ‘everyone expects’ fatalities to rise in the coming weeks, following a huge surge in cases from the Indian variant which has resulted in an uptick in hospitalisations.

Despite admitting there was ‘huge uncertainty’ over exactly how the third wave will pan out over the next few months, he warned it is still possible that the nation could be battered by another surge in deaths — hinting that thousands could succumb to the virus over the coming months.

Asked whether the nation could have returned to hundreds of deaths a day again had restrictions had been lifted as planned on June 21, Professor Medley said: ‘Oh easily. I think we still might at some point.’

Experts have said that because the Indian variant is so infectious, it will inevitably spill into unvaccinated groups and the small percentage of people for whom the jabs don’t work – even after most adults have been jabbed and the country reopens.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said today he was ‘as confident as confident can be’ about July 19 being England’s new ‘terminus date’ and insisted it would only be delayed if there is an ‘unprecedented and remarkable’ development in the Covid crisis.

Boris Johnson last night delayed the final stage of unlocking by a month after dire predictions by No10’s top scientific advisers warned the Indian strain could kill up to 500 people in a day had Freedom Day went ahead as planned. 

Unveiling the bad news, the PM defied fury from Tory MPs and the hospitality industry to insist he could not press ahead until more people are double-jabbed. He said he was ‘pretty confident’ that restrictions will be able to be lifted by then, adding that the disease cannot be ‘eliminated’ and the country will have to learn to ‘live with it’ in the future. 

Chief medic Chris Whitty, flanking the PM as usual alongside Sir Patrick Vallance, told a Downing Street briefing hospitalisations had risen 61 per cent in the North West in just a week, a trend that was predicted to follow suit nationally if June 21 went ahead. ‘The assessment of risk has fundamentally shifted,’ he said.

The move means that current rules will essentially remain in place until July 19 — with social distancing in force in bars and restaurants, and the edict to work from home where possible staying.

In an effort to soften the blow for people who have been putting their lives on hold for more than a year, there will be some easing on the rules for weddings. The 30-person limit on services and receptions will be abandoned but venues will still be restricted by how many they can accommodate while respecting social distancing rules.

But Mr Johnson’s own MPs are livid at the move, with fears running high this delay is only the first and lockdown might not be dropped at all. He will face a Commons showdown with them tomorrow, with the new regulations requiring a debate and a vote.

Although they are certain to go through with Labour support, the scale of the rebellion from Tory MPs will show the level of anger he is facing. Vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs Sir Charles Walker said that ‘existing isn’t living’ as he raised concerns that restrictions will stay in place all summer. 

Labour today blamed the delay of Freedom Day on the Government’s ‘lax’ border measures for letting the Indian variant into the country. Professor Medley admitted that the mutant strain ‘may well not have grown in the same way that it has’ had ministers acted quicker to clamp down on travel from India. 

One chart presented by chief medic Chris Whitty today showed that hospitalisations have increased 61 per cent in a week in the North West, a trend which was predicted to follow across the rest of the country. It played a heavy hand in the decision to delay Freedom Day

One chart presented by chief medic Chris Whitty today showed that hospitalisations have increased 61 per cent in a week in the North West, a trend which was predicted to follow across the rest of the country. It played a heavy hand in the decision to delay Freedom Day

One chart presented by chief medic Chris Whitty today showed that hospitalisations have increased 61 per cent in a week in the North West, a trend which was predicted to follow across the rest of the country. It played a heavy hand in the decision to delay Freedom Day

Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) dramatically delayed England's final lockdown-easing until July 19, after dire predictions by No10's top scientific advisers warned the Indian strain could kill up to 500 people in a day had Freedom Day went ahead as planned

Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) dramatically delayed England's final lockdown-easing until July 19, after dire predictions by No10's top scientific advisers warned the Indian strain could kill up to 500 people in a day had Freedom Day went ahead as planned

Boris Johnson (pictured this morning) dramatically delayed England’s final lockdown-easing until July 19, after dire predictions by No10’s top scientific advisers warned the Indian strain could kill up to 500 people in a day had Freedom Day went ahead as planned

Modelling has suggested that the timing of the reopening could make a major difference to the scale of hospital admissions

Modelling has suggested that the timing of the reopening could make a major difference to the scale of hospital admissions

Modelling has suggested that the timing of the reopening could make a major difference to the scale of hospital admissions

Analysis by Warwick University modellers showed how daily Covid hospital admissions could hit up to 2,500 a day, if June 21 went ahead. Scientific estimates also showed how the curve of admissions would peak at just over 1,000 a day if Freedom Day was pushed back to July 19. The team also looked at what would happen if the final unlocking took place on August 23

Analysis by Warwick University modellers showed how daily Covid hospital admissions could hit up to 2,500 a day, if June 21 went ahead. Scientific estimates also showed how the curve of admissions would peak at just over 1,000 a day if Freedom Day was pushed back to July 19. The team also looked at what would happen if the final unlocking took place on August 23

Analysis by Warwick University modellers showed how daily Covid hospital admissions could hit up to 2,500 a day, if June 21 went ahead. Scientific estimates also showed how the curve of admissions would peak at just over 1,000 a day if Freedom Day was pushed back to July 19. The team also looked at what would happen if the final unlocking took place on August 23

Modelling submitted to SAGE showed how NHS hospitals could fare in the event of a third wave (top charts), and also looked at how many people could die each day (bottom charts). Warwick University researchers made their estimates (left) based on the assumption that the Indian variant is 56 per cent more transmissible, and that fully vaccinated people are given 90 per cent protection against hospital admission. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers (right) used similar figures to come to their conclusions

Modelling submitted to SAGE showed how NHS hospitals could fare in the event of a third wave (top charts), and also looked at how many people could die each day (bottom charts). Warwick University researchers made their estimates (left) based on the assumption that the Indian variant is 56 per cent more transmissible, and that fully vaccinated people are given 90 per cent protection against hospital admission. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers (right) used similar figures to come to their conclusions

Modelling submitted to SAGE showed how NHS hospitals could fare in the event of a third wave (top charts), and also looked at how many people could die each day (bottom charts). Warwick University researchers made their estimates (left) based on the assumption that the Indian variant is 56 per cent more transmissible, and that fully vaccinated people are given 90 per cent protection against hospital admission. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine researchers (right) used similar figures to come to their conclusions

The Warwick team (left) and LSHTM academics (right) also looked at how many people would get infected every day (top) and how many infected patients would be admitted to hospital (bottom)

The Warwick team (left) and LSHTM academics (right) also looked at how many people would get infected every day (top) and how many infected patients would be admitted to hospital (bottom)

The Warwick team (left) and LSHTM academics (right) also looked at how many people would get infected every day (top) and how many infected patients would be admitted to hospital (bottom)

In the SPI-M modelling the researchers suggested that if the strain were 80 per cent more transmissible – the upper limit of the team's estimate – admissions could peak at more than 6,000 per day, higher even than the second wave

In the SPI-M modelling the researchers suggested that if the strain were 80 per cent more transmissible – the upper limit of the team's estimate – admissions could peak at more than 6,000 per day, higher even than the second wave

In the SPI-M modelling the researchers suggested that if the strain were 80 per cent more transmissible – the upper limit of the team’s estimate – admissions could peak at more than 6,000 per day, higher even than the second wave








Extra support to tackle a rise in cases of the Delta variant, which was first recorded in India, has been announced for more areas of the North West and Birmingham. The additional support will be introduced in Birmingham, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Liverpool City Region and Warrington, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said on Monday. The package, which is the same as was announced for Greater Manchester and Lancashire last week, will see more support for surge testing, tracing, isolation support and maximising vaccine uptake after a number of cases of the Delta variant were detected in the areas

Extra support to tackle a rise in cases of the Delta variant, which was first recorded in India, has been announced for more areas of the North West and Birmingham. The additional support will be introduced in Birmingham, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Liverpool City Region and Warrington, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said on Monday. The package, which is the same as was announced for Greater Manchester and Lancashire last week, will see more support for surge testing, tracing, isolation support and maximising vaccine uptake after a number of cases of the Delta variant were detected in the areas

Extra support to tackle a rise in cases of the Delta variant, which was first recorded in India, has been announced for more areas of the North West and Birmingham. The additional support will be introduced in Birmingham, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Liverpool City Region and Warrington, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said on Monday. The package, which is the same as was announced for Greater Manchester and Lancashire last week, will see more support for surge testing, tracing, isolation support and maximising vaccine uptake after a number of cases of the Delta variant were detected in the areas

Delta variant dominance on May 1

Delta variant dominance on May 1

Delta variant dominance on May 15

Delta variant dominance on May 15

Data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute shows how the proportion of cases being caused by the Indian ‘Delta’ variant rose during the first half of May, with hotspots (shown in purple) first emerging in the North West, London and central England

Delta variant dominance on May 29

Delta variant dominance on May 29

Delta variant dominance on June 5

Delta variant dominance on June 5

The Wellcome data show that, by the end of May, the variant was accounting for almost all cases in almost all parts of the country. Some areas – those in white – do not have enough data to work out a trend, but by June the strain appeared to have completely taken over England except the Isle of Wight








Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE, said 'everyone expects' fatalities to rise in the coming weeks, following a huge surge in cases from the Indian variant which has resulted in an uptick in hospitalisations

Professor Graham Medley, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE, said 'everyone expects' fatalities to rise in the coming weeks, following a huge surge in cases from the Indian variant which has resulted in an uptick in hospitalisations

Michael Gove said the Government is “as confident as confident can be” about July 19 being the date for the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions

Michael Gove said the Government is “as confident as confident can be” about July 19 being the date for the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions

Professor Graham Medley (left), from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE, said ‘everyone expects’ fatalities to rise in the coming weeks, following a huge surge in cases from the Indian variant which has resulted in an uptick in hospitalisations. Michael Gove (right) said the Government is ‘as confident as confident can be’ about July 19 being the date for the end of England’s coronavirus restrictions

In other developments today:

  • There are no plans to change the furlough scheme, despite the fact employers will have to start making bigger contributions next month; 
  • A YouGov poll has found 71 per cent of English adults back delaying the June 21 unlocking, while just 24 per cent are opposed; 
  • Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has voiced fury that Mr Johnson is announcing the decision at the Downing Street press briefing instead of to the House, saying he wants a face-to-face meeting with the PM; 
  • Extra support to tackle a rise in cases of the Delta variant, which was first recorded in India, has been announced for more areas of the North West and Birmingham; 
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber said a delay to the exit roadmap risked bankrupting the entire arts industry;
  • Ministers are pushing ahead with trials for the use of so-called ‘Covid passports’ for big cultural and sporting events, but will not make them compulsory for pubs.

Speaker slams PM for holding TV briefing before telling MPs  

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of 'running roughshod' over Parliament

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of 'running roughshod' over Parliament

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of ‘running roughshod’ over Parliament

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of ‘running roughshod’ over Parliament.

The Commons Speaker said Number 10’s treatment of Parliament has been ‘totally unacceptable’ as he again stressed that announcements should first be made at the despatch box.

Sir Lindsay, who has raised similar concerns in the past, said he intends to demand a face-to-face meeting with the premier to tell him that the Commons ‘matters’ and must be taken ‘seriously’.

Mr Johnson used a Downing Street press conference this evening to deliver an update on his lockdown exit roadmap.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was then scheduled to make a statement to MPs at around 8.30pm.

MPs are adamant that major announcements should be made to them first so that they can grill the Government.

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Quizzed about the delay to Freedom Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Medley warned that it is still possible that the nation could return to seeing hundreds of deaths a day.

‘Although the numbers of deaths are low at the moment, everyone expects that they will rise. The question is really as to what level they will rise,’ he said.

‘And at the moment there is a lot of uncertainty in what’s going to happen over the next couple of months.’

Professor Medley added: ‘Remember the Government risks are not the same as individual personal risks. 

‘My kind of risks are about whether or not I get ill or whether or not I die, Government risks are primarily based upon the healthcare, and whether the healthcare can continue to function.

‘And so they’re really focused very much on how many people end up in hospital, how many people end up in high dependency in hospital, and it’s really that is the focus of their risk and thinking about what should the Government do to prevent those bad things happening.

‘So it’s really an uncertainty at the moment, it’s too early to say for sure what will happen at the peak of this next epidemic.’ 

Professor Medley also insisted the Delta variant ‘would have ended up in the UK at some point’ even if the borders had been closed sooner.

Asked whether it would have made a difference if Britain had stopped people coming from India in early April, he said: ‘Potentially, I mean it’s speculation.

‘The newer Delta variant is now quite common around the globe so it would have ended up in the UK at some point but perhaps it would have been delayed.

‘It’s really the competition between the virus and the vaccine so had the variant arrived in the country when we’d had more people vaccinated, then it may well not have grown in the same way that it has.

‘It is now the predominant virus in the United Kingdom. And so it got a good start. A lot of cases introduced,

‘Whether that’s made a huge difference I think is something that we can look at afterwards but at the moment it’s kind of speculation.’

Asked about whether there could be a need for future measures, Professor Graham Medley said: ‘Again, it really depends upon what the prospects look like in terms of the way that this virus reacts with the vaccine, and that has actually turned out to be good news and uncertainty is solidified in terms of being good news.

‘There is that possibility though, I think that depending on what the Government wants to achieve, they may well have to make decisions that are against what they would much prefer not to do which is to make the changes that we’ve got irreversible.

‘It is possible we could end up with a situation whereby the numbers of people going to hospital, really mean that the Government have to take some kind of action that they don’t want to, but I think that’s always been the case – Government has always taken action to that it didn’t want to, it never wanted to lockdown.

‘And it’s always going to be the case in the sense that there is this pandemic ongoing but the next pandemic will happen at some point unknown, and then having used lockdowns once it’s quite possible that the Government would choose to use them again.’

Speaking to MailOnline later in the morning, Professor Medley struck a more optimistic tone, claiming that the ‘coming years will not be the same as the past year’. 

He said: ‘It’s is not completely clear what the future of SARS-CoV-2 is. We are going to have a wave of infections in the next few months, and hopefully the vaccination will mean that the number of admissions to hospital and deaths are not big enough to need more restrictions. 

‘After this wave, most people will be immune, either from infection or vaccination or both. If we are lucky, that will be the end of it, and the virus will circulate around but without causing any disease. 

‘If we are very unlucky, then new variants and more transmission over winter might mean another wave. But the vaccines are working, and it is likely that we will need booster doses, or new vaccines for different variants. 

‘Whatever happens, the coming years will not be the same as the past year – I cannot imagine going back into another full lockdown unless there is a totally new virus.’

Downing Street officials admit there is ‘considerable uncertainty’ over the scale of the expected resurgence. In the worst affected areas case rates are doubling every week. 

Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast today: ‘I’m not an epidemiologist, so I can’t predict with confidence what the likely level of the circulation of the virus will be and what the public health impact will be. 

‘But what I do know is that the best way of minimising the number of people who go into hospital, and who face terrible consequences as a result, the best way of reducing that number is by increasing vaccination.

‘So I don’t think we’re at all blase or shoulder-shrugging about anyone dying, but the best way that we can ensure that we protect everyone, including the vulnerable is by all of us getting the jab.’

During a round of interviews this morning, Mr Gove told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the Government was ‘as confident as confident can be’ about July 19 going ahead.

He added: ‘The data shows that we should be in a position to have vaccinated so many people by that date in July that we will be able to lift restrictions.

‘Now, you know, none of us can predict the future with 100 per cent certainty – there could be something bizarre and unprecedented that occurs.

‘But, on the basis of all the information that we have, then we will have successfully protected such a large section of population, and of course children will be facing summer holidays and that brings the infection rate down. So we’re as confident as confident can be about that date.’








Are these the numbers that scared Boris? 

CASES ARE RISING ACROSS UK BUT BIGGEST SPIKES IN UNDER-30s

Coronavirus cases have undeniably been rising in the UK, and quickly, in recent weeks after the ending of most lockdown rules on May 17 coincided with the takeover of the Indian variant.

The average number of positive tests announced each day is now above 7,000 for the first time since the tail end of the second wave in March, after 7,490 cases were confirmed yesterday after 8,125 on Friday.

There were 50,017 cases confirmed between Monday and Sunday last week, a 50 per cent spike from 33,496 the week before.

But a ray of hope among the rising infections is the fact that cases are up to 17 times higher among young adults than they are in the at-risk elderly, suggesting vaccines are protecting older people.

Public Health England data showed that in the week ending June 6 the highest infection rate was 121 cases per 100,000 people among those aged 20 to 29. Rates were also high in teenagers (99 per 100,000) and adults in their 30s (73).

But they were significantly lower in the middle-aged and elderly, with the lowest rate in over-70s, at 7 per 100,000, followed by 14 per 100,000 among people in their 60s and 32 per 100,000 in people in their 50s.

And while the rate had doubled in just a week in people in their 20s, it rose by only 17 per cent in the over-80s, showing most of the surging epidemic at the time was in young people.

HOSPITAL ADMISSIONS ARE CREEPING UP WITH VARIANT HOTSPOTS LEADING THE WAY

Hospital admissions are creeping up across the UK and more notably in Delta variant hotspots.

The increase has been significantly slower than cases – there was a 15 per cent increase in the most recent week, from 875 new admissions by June 1 to 1,008 in the week to June 8 – but this is likely an effect of the lag between someone getting infected and then getting sick enough to need hospital treatment.

The real test of how well vaccines will taking pressure off hospitals will come in the next week or two, when there has been enough time – two to three weeks – since the spike in cases to see what happens.

Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College London epidemiologist and member of SAGE, said scientists were hoping the ratio of cases to hospital admissions could be cut by 85 per cent from the pre-jab rate of around nine per cent.

In the most recent data, for June 8, there were 187 people admitted to hospital with Covid in the UK, the highest since April 14. By Thursday, June 10, there were a total of 1,089 patients in hospital.

The trend of total number of people in hospital has remained relatively flat, fluctuating between 800 and 1,100 for the past month but creeping upwards in the most recent week. Experts say the current surge in cases will see it tick up in the coming days and weeks.

Places where infection rates with the Delta variant are comparatively high – Bedfordshire, London, Birmingham, Manchester and East Lancashire – had the highest admission rates in the most recent data but even those, the worst-hit hospitals, still had only five patients admitted on June 6.

They also have the most people in hospital in total, with 44 Covid patients on wards in Manchester University NHS Trust on June 8. This was the highest in the country and up almost 60 per cent in a week from 28 on June 1.

Inpatient numbers were rising in all but three of the areas with the most patients – falling only in Bolton and Croydon, and flat at King’s College London, while rising in Imperial College London, East Lancashire, Bedfordshire, Salford Royal in Manchester, Southampton and Birmingham.

INTENSIVE CARE CLOSE TO 2021 LOW BUT RISING SLOWLY WITH NORTH WEST WORST HIT

The number of patients with Covid in intensive care remains low in the UK, with only 158 people critically ill in hospital by June 10.

This figure rose slightly compared to previous weeks but the trend has been broadly flat – the lowest point of 2021 was 119 on May 29, just two weeks ago, after it fell from over 4,000 in late January.

More detailed information for England, up to June 8, showed that 47 out of a total 140 intensive care patients were all in the North West.

Just two Indian variant hotspots East Lancashire and Bolton hospitals accounted for 21 of these patients – 15 per cent of the country’s total, or one in seven.

The delay between cases and the need for intensive care is even longer than it is between people getting infected and getting admitted to a general hospital ward, so these numbers could begin increasing in the coming weeks.

But the vaccines are also expected to have an effect on the number of people who become gravely ill. While the jab should stop most people from ending up in hospital at all, even those who do end up in hospital do not seem to be as sick as they used to be.

Chief of the NHS Providers union, Chris Hopson, said last week: ‘What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is a significantly lower mortality rate which is, you know, borne out by the figures.

‘So it’s not just the numbers of people who are coming in, it’s actually the level of harm and clinical risk.’

DEATHS STILL FLAT – BUT QUARTER OF NEW VARIANT VICTIMS WERE FULLY VACCINATED

The number of people dying each day of coronavirus remains relatively flat – the daily average reported deaths is nine and the figure has been between eight and 10 for the past three weeks.

It briefly fell to a daily average of six for four days in mid-May but has not been lower than that at any time in the pandemic, not even last summer when the virus had been all but stamped out.

Deaths usually take between two weeks and a month to react after a spike in cases because it can take people so long to die of Covid after they test positive.

Although the success of the vaccines now means that there were will have to be significantly more cases per death compared to earlier waves of the virus, scientists still expect the number of fatalities to rise and fall along with infections – they just hope there will be fewer.

Professor Neil Ferguson said last week: ‘It’s well within the possibility that we could see another, third, wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalisations as the second wave. At least deaths, I think, certainly would be lower.’

A lingering worry, however, is the fact that vaccines won’t perfectly protect people and that ‘vaccine failure’ is inevitable in some people – most likely the old and frail.

Public Health England figures show that almost a third of the 42 Britons who have so far died from the Indian (Delta) Covid had been given two vaccine doses.

The PHE report showed that of those 42 people who died, 12 were fully vaccinated. From the remaining members of the group, 23 were unvaccinated, while seven had received their first dose more than 21 days before, suggesting they had one-dose protection.

The latest data puts the vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease against the Delta variant at 33 per cent after one dose. After two doses, this rises to 81 per cent. This is is lower than the Alpha variant, where the figures are 51 per cent after the first dose, and 88.4 per cent after the second.

DELTA VARIANT NOW DOMINANT IN 263 OUT OF 315 AREAS OF ENGLAND

The Indian ‘Delta’ variant is now dominant in 263 out of 315 areas of England, up from 201 last week.

Surveillance data gathered by the Wellcome Sanger Institute revealed that the variant accounted for more than half of infections in 85 per cent of areas across the country in the two weeks leading up to June 5.

The strain — known by scientists as B.1.617.2 — is more contagious than the Kent ‘Alpha’ variant and is now dominant in every borough of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London.

The variant is likely to be even more dominant, due to the delay in determining which variant a positive test was caused by – Public Health England said last week it was accounting for 96 per cent of positive tests.

Across the country, the variant is responsible for 88.4 per cent of all cases, according to the Sanger report. The once-dominant Kent strain now only accounts for 11.3 per cent of cases.

Havant, in Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight are the only areas that have not recorded any cases of the Delta variant, according to the statistics. All of the cases examined in those two regions were identified as the Kent mutation.

In nearly 40 parts of England — including Cambridge, Newcastle and York — the strain is thought to be responsible for all Covid infections.

The strain is not yet dominant in 28 areas of the country, such as Doncaster, Sheffield and Southampton.

But 24 regions did not provided data for the weeks leading up to June 5, so it is unclear how those places — which include Darlington and Eastbourne — have been hit by the variant.

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But Mr Gove did not rule out some restrictions having to stay in place past the new Freedom Day date, insisting the Government will be ‘guided by clinical advice from doctors and scientists’. 

Asked if mask-wearing will be used over winter, he said: ‘I want as few restrictions as possible, but I’m not an epidemiologist or a virologist and I will listen to those who are and weigh their advice in the balance.’

Pressed on what has to happen for there to be another extension to the July 19 ‘terminus’ date, he said: ‘We believe the vaccination programme which has been a big success so far can successfully vaccinate an even higher proportion of the adult population.

‘We can make sure that those who have been vaccinated once get their second vaccine and we extend right the way down the population range.

‘We hope by so doing we can limit the risk of infection and also reduce the number of people going into hospitals and putting a strain on the NHS.’

Former minister Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, said he believed the country ‘could have moved ahead perfectly safely’ with the final unlocking next week. 

He told LBC Radio claimed the vaccination programme was robust enough to protect the NHS, even if some lives were lost to the virulent strain.

He added: ‘I listened carefully to what the Prime Minister said yesterday and I was in the House of Commons for the Health Secretary’s statement, and it seemed to me we don’t know anything today that we didn’t know when the Prime Minister was telling us he was happy to move ahead on the 21st of June.’

He added that the Prime Minister’s comments about the July 19 date ‘are exactly the same words as he was using about the 21st of June, so some of us, I’m afraid, are a bit worried that we’re not going to actually move forward on the 19th of July’.

He went on: ‘Ultimately we’ve reduced the risk of this disease hugely by our fantastic vaccination programme, and, as the Government says, we’ve got to learn to live with it, but the problem is every time we get to that point, ministers seem to not actually want to live with it and keep restrictions in place.

‘Now, I think the public needs to understand there’s risk involved, you can’t get zero risk – we know that because every time we do anything in our lives, we take a calculated risk based on the benefits we get – and I think that’s how we’ve got to now deal with Covid, now that we’ve vaccinated people. And I think that’s what we want to see from the Government.’

He urged everyone to have a vaccination, adding: ‘We can’t be held hostage by people that you’ve not yet chosen to get vaccinated when they’ve had the opportunity to do so.’

Meanwhile, Labour today blamed the Government’s ‘puny’ border policies for allowing the Indian variant to enter the country in April and derail the roadmap.

Despite knowing about the variant since late March, travel from India was not banned until late April, which allowed thousands to pour back into the UK from the Covid-stricken nation.

Mr Johnson had been due to fly to New Delhi for trade talks and there has been a suggestion that No10 held off putting India on its red travel list for fear it would sour negotiations.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘Rather than red listing this variant, we essentially gave it the red carpet treatment.

‘20,000 people were allowed to arrive from India over a number of weeks in April, even though the warning signs were there. That essentially seeded this Delta variant across the country.

‘Nobody wanted to be in this place and we could have avoided this if it was not for the Delta variant, and I’m afraid this is on Boris Johnson for his puny weak border policy, which was secure as a sieve.’

He added that Labour would ‘collapse’ the traffic light travel system because of the confusion surrounding the travel rules to amber countries.

‘Essentially all those nations on the amber list we would move to a red list. We would want to see more nations move on to the green list when it is safe to do so,’ he added.

‘But we would ask those returning from those red list countries to properly quarantine themselves at the borders – I understand this is an immense inconvenience for people, and I don’t want to put people in this situation, but we’ve got to protect ourselves from this very dangerous virus.’

No10 accepts there will be an ‘economic impact’ to the delay.

But they insisted there changes are not needed to the support package, with furlough due to stay until September – even though businesses will need to contribute more to costs from next month.  

‘We have got substantial support in place,’ one official said. ‘We deliberately extended support well into the Autumn.’ 

Pilots using Covid status certification for larger events will go ahead despite the wider ‘pause’. 

Up to a dozen events will happen over the four weeks, including a mix of indoor and outdoor, seated and unseated. They are expected to include Euros football matches and will see various capacities of crowd up to full capacity. 

Mr Johnson said ‘we have obviously faced a very difficult choice’.

‘We can simply keep going with all of Step 4 on June 21, even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines and that thousands more deaths would ensue which could otherwise have been avoided.

‘Or else we can give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.

‘And since today I cannot say that that we have met all our four tests for proceeding with Step 4 on June 21, I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘I am sorry for all the disappointment that is going to be caused by going a bit slower.’ 

He added: ‘We will monitor the position every day and if, after two weeks, we have concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to step four, and a full opening, sooner.’

Mr Johnson said he is ‘confident’ that no more than four weeks will be needed and that restrictions will not go beyond July 19.

‘It’s unmistakably clear the vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll-out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves,’ he said.

‘But now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.’

Sir Patrick said that it was ‘not very obvious’ that delaying more than four weeks would bring a significant benefit. 

Professor Whitty said a balance had to be struck between protecting people and opening up society.

‘No one thinks at the end of the four-week delay the risk is gone,’ England’s chief medical officer said.

‘There will still be substantial numbers, there will be substantial numbers in hospitals and sadly there will be some people who will go on to die of this.

‘The question is a matter of balance.’

Once all that could reasonably be done to reduce the risk had been put in place ‘we will have to live with this virus – which will continue to cause severe infections and kill people – for the rest of our lives’.

‘Where does the balance lie?’

New analysis by Public Health England (PHE) has revealed that 29 per cent of Covid deaths from the B.1.617.2 Indian strain had received two injections. 

And, in a further blow, the PHE report suggests the Delta variant has a 64 per cent increased risk of household transmission compared to the Kent (Alpha) variant.

However, some hardline anti-lockdown Tories are furious about any delay at all, as they wanted the lifting of lockdown to be faster that it has been. 

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The decision to delay is hugely disappointing but the Government has judged the evidence and acted as it sees fit. 

‘It does, however, jeopardise the return on investment that the Government has afforded hospitality and it’s crucial that further support is announced to push us over the line.

‘The hospitality sector has already lost more than £87billion in sales in the pandemic leaving businesses deeply in debt and at risk of suffering ‘economic long Covid’ without further support. 

‘Our businesses face incredible levels of debt and will now face a huge cost hike, with business rates payments set to recommence and rent accruals due at the end of the month. 

‘This four-week delay to lifting restrictions will cost the sector around £3billion in sales, put at risk 300,000 jobs and have a knock-on impact on bookings throughout the summer and into the autumn. Simply put, if the supports provided by the Chancellor are not sustained and adjusted, businesses will fail and getting this far will count for nought.’ 

Live, the body representing the UK’s live music business, said the delay to the road map was devastating to the industry and called for emergency financial support.

Greg Parmley, CEO of Live, said: ‘Following more than a year of confusion, lost revenue and cancellations, we are devastated the Government has not set out any clear path for the restart of the live music industry.

‘The Government has been quick to talk up the success of the vaccine rollout, but other countries are now ahead of us in opening up full capacity events with simple Covid certification processes, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the US.

‘The Government must also provide urgent emergency financial support to those impacted by today’s decision.

‘There are hundreds of millions of pounds from the much-vaunted Culture Recovery Fund unallocated, despite being 15 months on from the start of the crisis. This money needs to get into the industry without any more delay.’ 

Sir Charles said: ‘Eventually, if you say you are going to live with Covid-19, ultimately at times you are going to have to tough it out. Existing isn’t living. 

‘So I just have an overwhelming sense of pessimism now. If you can’t lift restrictions at the height of summer, and we are in the height of summer, then you almost certainly are looking at these restrictions persisting and tightening into the autumn and winter.

‘I don’t think the July 19 date will be met. If it is, it will be met for weeks before we enter further lockdowns.’

Earlier, health minister Edward Argar defended the concept of a delay, saying it would massively boost vaccine numbers – with data showing that most of the most serious Indian variant cases have involved people who have not been jabbed.

‘Were there to be a delay, were that to be what the Prime Minister announces, we will see what he says and he will make a judgment if he were to delay it on how long by,’ he told BBC Breakfast.

‘If we are going at a run rate of about 250,000 to 300,000 second jabs being done each day, a month gives you roughly that 10 million, which closes the gap… 10 million you have got to do to get from 29 million to 40 million, so that all 40 million have had their second jabs.’ 

Former minister Steve Baker channelled classic war film The Great Escape in a message to Covid Recovery Group MPs last night, according to Politico, saying: ‘It is the sworn duty of all officers to try to escape. 

‘If they cannot escape, then it is their sworn duty to cause the enemy to use an inordinate number of troops to guard them, and their sworn duty to harass the enemy to the best of their ability.’

And theatre impresario Sir Howard Panter warned the industry will suffer ‘significant damage’ if the final lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England is put on hold. 

Conservative MP Damian Green has told the Westminster Hour that there should be a break clause after two or three weeks of the extension.

‘I get the point that because of the deltas variant the cases have gone up, hospitalisation has gone up a bit but not a lot and is below the level of some of the Sage predictions of a few months ago,’ he said.

‘So I think if there is a delay I hope it’s only for a few weeks and I think if it is as long as a month then there should be a break clause after two or maybe three weeks, to say that if we can tell by then that the rise in cases is not lading to a sort of rise in the serious illness that sends people into hospital, then we can unlock earlier.’

Ignoring a mounting revolt by Tory MPs and dire warnings from the hospitality and theatre industries, Mr Johnson will argue that scrapping all restrictions now is likely to fuel the surge – and the public needs to be ‘patient’ so the country does not go into reverse.

Michael Gove, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock signed off on the four-week delay at a Covid O meeting this afternoon, before Cabinet rubber stamped the decision.

NHS leaders ‘relieved’ by lockdown extension 

NHS leaders have expressed their ‘relief’ that Boris Johnson has extended the current lockdown restrictions for another four weeks.   

Pushing back Freedom Day to July 19 will mean that the NHS can vaccinate ‘many more people’, NHS Providers said as it welcomed the ‘cautious’ approach.

It will also mean that there is ‘less pressure’ on hospitals which are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic. 

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said that a cautious approach ‘is prudent’.

He said: ‘There is welcome increasing evidence that, for this pattern of variants, vaccines are breaking the chain between COVID-19 infections and the high levels of hospitalisations and mortality we saw in previous waves.

‘A delay of four weeks will enable the NHS to do two important things. It will enable us to confirm the extent to which vaccines have broken the chain between infections and hospitalisations and deaths. And, crucially, it will enable us to vaccinate many more people with double doses and a period of protection build up.

‘It will also mean less pressure on hospitals at a point when they are very busy recovering care backlogs and dealing with increased demand for emergency care with significantly reduced capacity, due to the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals.

‘So trust leaders will welcome the decision taken today, for operational reasons. But they will also understand the impact of continuing lockdown measures on people’s lives, mental health and on the economy.

‘Vaccines will enable us to exit this current pandemic soon. But we must all understand that the virus will be with us for a long time yet. So our next task will be to discuss what the NHS, and we as a nation, need to do to live with the virus longer term. That debate has barely started.’

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, added: ‘Health leaders will be relieved that the Prime Minister has listened to their warnings and extended the current lockdown restrictions.’ 

‘Our members are committed to using this extra time to vaccinate as many adults as they can so that we can protect our population and support the NHS to continue to restore its services for patients,’ he continued.

‘However, if the data continues to show that the Covid situation has not improved come 19 July, the Government has to be prepared to act decisively again and if needed, slam the brakes down further.’

BMA chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘I am glad the Government has listened to the BMA and others like us who, in recent days, made clear the need for the current restrictions in England to remain in place for a few more weeks.’ 

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘We are, without doubt, in a phase where cases of the virus are spiralling, but the data we have still doesn’t yet show the full impact of this or of the easing of restrictions on May 17.

‘Furthermore, the more people who have the virus, the more likely it is that new variants of concern will emerge and numbers of those with longer term ill health following infection will increase.

‘So, it is important to do whatever we can to avoid high levels of virus circulating in the community.’

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The new regulations will be laid tomorrow.

Mr Johnson is putting the delay to a debate and vote on Wednesday. 

While it is likely to pass easily with opposition support, he faces a sizable Tory rebellion that will show the dept of anger on his own backbenches. 

Conservative MP Peter Bone said a delay to the lifting of restrictions should not happen ‘without really good reason’ and that currently he ‘can’t see the evidence why we should be postponing our freedom’.

Asked if he would vote against a delay if put to a vote in Parliament, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What I would do is listen to what the Prime Minister says, listen to the arguments, and if I’m not convinced that these restrictions are necessary then I would of course vote against it and I hope every member of the House of Commons will listen to the argument and make their minds up.

‘There has to be a vote in the House of Commons. This can’t be decided by a few ministers sitting behind closed doors. It has to be an open and transparent decision.’

He said there should only be restrictions ‘if there is a very clear danger to society’. 

 Sir Keir Starmer has blamed the Government’s ‘pathetic’ border policy for the delay.

The Labour leader made the comments in response to threats from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to open his theatres to a full house on June 21 regardless of lockdown rules.

Speaking to LBC, Sir Keir said: ‘June 21 was supposed to be ”Freedom Day”, and why are we not going to hit it? It looks like we’re not because of the Government’s pathetic borders policy.’

Sir Keir criticised the Government for delays to introducing hotel quarantine, the confusing traffic light system for foreign travel, and the decision to delay putting India on the red list until late April.

‘The net result of (the Prime Minister’s) pathetic approach is that we’re going to have four weeks more of this.’

When pressed on Lord Lloyd Webber’s claims he is ready to be arrested if theatres cannot legally reopen, Sir Keir said: ‘I have to tell him to obey the rules and obey the law, of course I do. But I do understand the frustration.’ 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of ‘running roughshod’ over Parliament.

The Commons Speaker said Number 10’s treatment of Parliament has been ‘totally unacceptable’ as he again stressed that announcements should first be made at the despatch box.

Sir Lindsay, who has raised similar concerns in the past, said he intends to demand a face-to-face meeting with the premier to tell him that the Commons ‘matters’ and must be taken ‘seriously’.

Mr Johnson used a Downing Street press conference this evening to deliver an update on his lockdown exit roadmap.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was then scheduled to make a statement to MPs at around 8.30pm.

MPs are adamant that major announcements should be made to them first so that they can grill the Government.

Sir Howard, co-founder of theatre operator Trafalgar Entertainment, said theatre producers had ‘mobilised a whole industry’ on the condition they would be able to reopen on June 21.

The 72-year-old said: ‘The reality is we have marched the troops up the hill.

‘We have mobilised a whole industry in order to get going because we have been keeping the industry going for the last 15 months.

‘It costs money. We haven’t had Government help. We have kept it going. And now, surprise, surprise, the industry needs some income.








Mr Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance ran through slides setting out the status of the outbreak in the UK

Mr Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance ran through slides setting out the status of the outbreak in the UK

Mr Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance ran through slides setting out the status of the outbreak in the UK 

Early morning sun seekers pitching up on West Wittering Beach in West Sussex, on what is predicted to be the hottest day ion the year so far today

Early morning sun seekers pitching up on West Wittering Beach in West Sussex, on what is predicted to be the hottest day ion the year so far today

Early morning sun seekers pitching up on West Wittering Beach in West Sussex, on what is predicted to be the hottest day ion the year so far today

England supporters gathered at venues including the Boxpark in Croydon, south London, to watch England beat Croatia 1-0 in their opening Euro 2020 game yesterday

England supporters gathered at venues including the Boxpark in Croydon, south London, to watch England beat Croatia 1-0 in their opening Euro 2020 game yesterday

England supporters gathered at venues including the Boxpark in Croydon, south London, to watch England beat Croatia 1-0 in their opening Euro 2020 game yesterday








What will stay and go on June 21? 

Boris Johnson’s widely anticipated four-week delay to Freedom Day means that only a few tweaks will be made to the lockdown.

The measures include: 

  • Keep restrictions in pubs that force them to operate table service only, with no queuing at the bar
  • Social distancing rules, including the wearing of masks indoors and on public transport, remain 
  • Working from home guidance remains in place
  • Theatres limited to 50 per cent capacity
  • Nightclubs remain closed 
  • Weddings no longer limited to 30 attendees. They will be allowed to go ahead with as many guests as can be held by the venue under social distancing rules 
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‘People need work. Thousands of people have been mobilised in order to work in the theatre industry, to start work from next Monday and now we are being told, apparently: ”Oh no, it’s not that date. It may be some other date, we don’t really know”.

‘The ramifications for the theatre industry are extremely serious. But also the ramifications for all the industries which frankly work with and collaborate with the theatre – restaurants, hotels, hospitality, transport, taxis.’ 

 However scientists backed the idea of a month-long delay.

Former chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘it buys time if we prolong the current state of social distancing’.

He added: ‘It is a race between the vaccination and virus, and another four weeks makes a significant difference,

Newlywed Boris scraps wedding limits – but no dance floors and social distancing stays 

Boris Johnson gave some respite to couples waiting to get married today as he lifted the 30-guest limit on services and receptions.

From next Monday marriages will be allowed to go ahead with no fixed size limit despite the pause to lifting lockdown announced by the PM tonight. 

Instead they will be allowed to be as large as is permissible at the venue under social distancing guidelines that remain in place.

It comes amid growing anger from the wedding industry that the limits remained in place while large crowds were allowed to gather for events like Euro 2020 football matches.  

Wedding guests will have to remain seated at tables of no more than six, and in a blow to the celebratory nature of the day, the current ban on singing and dancing will remain in place over transmission fears. 

Venues will be responsible for carrying out risk assessments before weddings that set out how many guests are allowed. 

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‘But I think it also will help us to really establish the extent to which the vaccination breaks or weakens the link between getting infection and getting the sort of serious effects of ending up in hospital, or potentially dying.

‘Also, we’ll get a lot more information – we’ll see what’s happening with hospital admissions, which, of course, lag infections.’

Professor Linda Bauld, from the University of Edinburgh, told LBC that the variant first identified in India now accounted for the majority of UK cases, but the death rate among people with this infection was low.

‘You can see amongst people who were infected with this variant, the mortality rate was 0.7%, just 12 people,’ she said.

‘We think they are all the people who had underlying health conditions and died with Covid, not from Covid necessarily.

‘So the proportion of people in hospital now is half of what it was, if we were in the previous situation in 2020 and 2021.’

She added: ‘We have weakened that link between infections and hospitalisations and death but we haven’t broken it.

‘And I think we can break it or certainly have it at a much higher level, if more people have both doses.’

Ministers were told that the four-week delay would likely prevent thousands of hospital admissions amid the rising Delta (Indian) variant – which is of particular concern to health officials over fears it partially evades vaccines.

A surge in the next few weeks would damage the NHS, as emergency departments have warned they are struggling with significant demand at the moment, The Guardian reports.   

The PM has previously said that the end of restrictions must be ‘irreversible’. 

One government source said restrictions could no longer be justified once over-50s had been vaccinated, adding: ‘The Prime Minister sees this as the final stretch and wants people to be patient. We are nearly there, it’s one last haul.’ 

Yesterday, millions of Britons put aside fears of a delay and headed out to cheer on the England football team during their Euro 2020 win over Croatia. On one of the hottest days of the year, beaches and parks were packed.

A Whitehall source said last night the Prime Minister was ‘determined’ to present a new exit plan ‘so this doesn’t just drag on’.

This is likely to involve a fresh drive to accelerate the rate of second jabs, which are seen as vital to halting the spread of the new variant. 

The source said: ‘It may be better to pause things rather than risk getting into a position where if things get prickly we have to go into reverse. But the PM is very clear that it cannot be indefinite.’ 

It comes after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said at the weekend that he could not give an ‘absolute guarantee’ that social distancing measures would be lifted by the end of August – prompting fears restrictions could roll on into the autumn.

Mr Johnson is facing a MPs’ revolt over the move to delay the final step of his lockdown-easing roadmap.

Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said a delay to Freedom Day would be ‘devastating for business confidence, people’s livelihoods and wellbeing’. 

He added: ‘Delaying June 21 will send a clear message to employers and workers that when Covid cases increase this (and every) autumn and winter, they cannot rely on the Government to keep our society open. 

‘It would be catastrophic for many businesses currently on life support.’ 

Douglas McWilliams, of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the delay was ‘a kick in the teeth’ for sectors such as hospitality. 

He said firms had spent ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’ preparing for the relaxation of social distancing rules.

Mr Johnson spent last night thrashing out details of the new exit plan at a crunch meeting with senior ministers and advisers. 

He was joined by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, chief medical officer Chris Whitty, and chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance.

Whitehall sources said the PM had been persuaded by scientists to sanction a delay.

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of a sub-group of the Government’s expert Sage committee, said Britain was facing a ‘substantial third wave’ of infections. 

Asked whether the next round of reopening should go ahead, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘If you are driving down a road and coming to a bend, and you’re not quite sure what’s round that bend, you don’t put your foot on the accelerator.’

Scientists fear that although two doses of Covid vaccine provide good defence against the Indian variant, one gives only limited protection.

The Government’s target for giving all adults their first dose is not until the end of July, with second doses being given eight to 12 weeks later.

Mr Johnson refused to say what proportion of the public will have to be fully vaccinated before a full reopening can go ahead, although sources suggested he will set out more detail tonight.  















The Prime Minister is expected to confirm that the June 21 Freedom Day will be pushed back to July 19 following a sharp rise in cases of the Indian variant. Pictured: The beach in Bournemouth was packed on Sunday

The Prime Minister is expected to confirm that the June 21 Freedom Day will be pushed back to July 19 following a sharp rise in cases of the Indian variant. Pictured: The beach in Bournemouth was packed on Sunday

The Prime Minister is expected to confirm that the June 21 Freedom Day will be pushed back to July 19 following a sharp rise in cases of the Indian variant. Pictured: The beach in Bournemouth was packed on Sunday 















Furlough will NOT be extended: Rishi Sunak rejects pleas from businesses and says help scheme will begin to be phased out from July 1 – even though Freedom Day is postponed past that

Unvaccinated British travellers to Ireland facing longer quarantine 

Unvaccinated holidaymakers travelling from the UK to Ireland may face a longer self-quarantine period, it was reported last night.

It comes as the Irish department of health confirmed a further 315 new cases of Covid-19, with 22 patients in intensive care.

It is considering a longer self-isolation period for non-vaccinated UK passengers, following fears of the Indian variant spreading in the republic.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said there would be ‘some changes [to rules on quarantine and travel] to reflect the concern and the danger that the variant represents’. Currently, anyone arriving from Britain must quarantine from home for five days if they get a second negative PCR test.

Mr Coveney told RTE’s This Week: ‘We want to try to get the balance right between protecting the Common Travel Area with the UK as best we can, because it is very important, and the very real and strong public health evidence.’

The Indian variant is now the dominant strain in Britain – accounting for 90 per cent of cases – and it is being closely monitored by Public Health England.

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by JOHN STEVENS, Political Editor, for the Daily Mail 

Demands from businesses to extend the furlough scheme were rejected by Rishi Sunak last night – despite the expected delay to ending lockdown.

The hugely expensive wage support fund is due to start being wound down at the end of this month.

As part of the Budget earlier this year, the Chancellor announced he would stop covering 80 per cent of the salaries of those not at work.

From July 1, the Government’s share will fall to 70 per cent with employers contributing 10 per cent, as part of a staged withdrawal of the scheme due to finish completely at the end of September.

Business groups including the British Chamber of Commerce yesterday urged the Chancellor to delay the wind down if lockdown is extended, while hospitality chiefs claimed as many as 200,000 jobs were at risk.

But sources close to Mr Sunak insisted the timetable for gradually withdrawing furlough would remain the same.

They said that by extending support to the end of September the Treasury had already ‘gone long’ in case there was any delay to reopening. Mr Sunak is also resisting calls to extend the business rates holiday that is also due to start being withdrawn at the end of the month.

Retail, hospitality and leisure premises have been helped with a 100 per cent relief since last March when the lockdowns first began. The Government is due to reduce the relief to 66 per cent from July 1 and it will remain in place until the end of March next year.

Trade body UKHospitality has called for Mr Sunak to keep the full relief in place for a further three months until the start of October.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said yesterday: ‘We recognise that the Chancellor has provided long-term support for the sector which extends into the recovery period, but there is no doubt that any extension to the restrictions will be challenging for sectors yet to open and those still trading at a loss to navigate.’

She added: ‘Among other measures, the Government must postpone business rates payments until at least October and extend the rent moratorium while a long-term solution is found.

‘Businesses need a swift, publicly-stated commitment that such support will be in place in the event of any delays, giving them much-needed reassurance after more than 15 months of closure and severely disrupted trading.

‘Hospitality is desperate to get back to what it does best and can play a key role in the economic recovery of the UK – but only if it is given the proper support.’

Most recent figures showed there were 3.4million jobs on furlough at the end of April, which was 900,000 lower than the month before. Since the start of the scheme last March, a total of 11.5million jobs have been supported by furlough at some point at a cost of £64billion. 

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