Will restrictions be lifted on 21 June? When lockdown could really end as UK mulls delay to Covid rule changes

Reports suggest that the end of lockdown in England could be delayed by two weeks
Covid-19  restrictions are set to be eased significantly in England on June 21 (Getty Images)Covid-19  restrictions are set to be eased significantly in England on June 21 (Getty Images)
Covid-19 restrictions are set to be eased significantly in England on June 21 (Getty Images)

England is due to exit lockdown on June 21, but with cases at their highest since March the easing of social distancing restrictions appears far from certain.

Scotland is set to return to Level 0 conditions on June 28, but with cases in Greater Glasgow stubbornly high the return to near-normality also isn’t guaranteed.

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Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, meanwhile said that while the principality was no longer technically in a pandemic that a third wave was “likely”.

But how likely is a third wave of coronavirus cases in the UK? Here’s what experts have said.

Will June 21 reopening be delayed?

The planned ending of all lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June could be delayed by two weeks.

Cabinet ministers are said to be increasingly pessimistic about the possibility of lifting all Covid rules following a “downbeat” briefing from Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance.

Prof Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Sir Patrick, the chief scientific adviser, have a briefing to ministers on Monday (7 June) on the latest Covid-19 data, which was described as “fairly grim”.

The pair expressed concerns about the current rate of transmission of new coronavirus strains, including the highly transmissible Delta variant which originated in India, and warned that vaccinations do not provide 100 per cent protection.

One cabinet source told The Times they expect a delay of anywhere between two weeks and two months.

Ministers are said to be of the view that the political impact of any delay to lifting restrictions to allow more people to be vaccinated would be limited if lockdown ends in time for the start of the summer holidays in late July.

On May 28, Boris Johnson has said that "we may need to wait" beyond June 21 but said that there was nothing in the government’s data at this stage to suggest that this would be necessary.

He said: "I think the question people want to answer is to what extent is our vaccine shield now going to be enough to allow us to go ahead with 21 June with the unlocking.

"Now, as I've said many times, I don't see anything currently in the data to suggest we have to deviate from the roadmap but we may need to wait."

Also on May 28, Independent Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) member Prof Pagel called for the road map for England to be delayed.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think what’s demoralising is having a third wave.

“If we can just delay international travel, delay Stage 4 of the road map until we have a much higher proportion of people vaccinated with two doses, we’re in a much, much better position.

“We’re only two months away from that, it’s not long to wait. What I don’t want is for us to have new restrictions.”

When will we know more?

Boris Johnson is scheduled to make an announcement on Monday, June 14.

On this date he will reveal whether England will lift its lockdown restrictions on June 21.

Will there be a third wave?

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) advising the Government, said the UK was in the grip of an “early” third wave of Covid-19 infections which is being spearheaded by the Indian variant.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today whether the UK was already in a third wave of coronavirus infections, the University of Cambridge academic said: “Yes, there has been exponential growth in the number of the new cases and at least three-quarters of them are the new variant.

“Of course the numbers of cases are relatively low at the moment – all waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave.

“It will probably take longer than earlier waves to emerge because of the fact that we do have quite high levels of vaccination in the population, so there may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern.”

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme on May 28 Professor Andrew Hayward, from University College London and a member of New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said cases of the Indian variant were doubling every week and “it only takes five or six doublings for that to get up to say a quarter million cases.”

He said if further easing was brought in “instead of doubling every week it’s likely to double more frequently than that of course, so I think there is a good argument for caution until such time as we’ve got a much higher proportion of the population double vaccinated”.

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