As per the roadmap laid out by the government, England was due to move to its fourth and final stage out of lockdown on June 21.
Dubbed Freedom Day, June 21 was meant to see all legal limits on social contact removed, with venues being allowed to operate on capacity and households becoming free to mix.
However, the Prime Minister has announced that the end of remaining social distancing rules will now be postponed till July 19. The roadmap which was laid out in March has gone ahead on its proposed dates in March, April and May at all three stages so far.
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Why has June 21 been delayed for England?
The roadmap is underpinned by four key tests, which act like a checklist that must be met before moving on to the next step of reopening.
These tests determine whether the vaccine rollout is going as planned, if vaccines are effective in bringing down death rates and hospitalisations, if case numbers aren’t rising to a level that it becomes unsustainable for the NHS, and if new variants don’t create unforeseen risks.
The rise of the Delta variant, which data reveals to be 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, is one of the major reasons for Johnson’s decision to postpone the final stretch out of lockdown.
The move towards a full reopening has also been affected by the news that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs give only 33 per cent protection after one dose, in comparison to the 80 per cent protection against the previous variants.
Are Covid cases rising in England?
A new analysis has revealed that the number of coronavirus cases in England has climbed to its highest level since early March, suggesting the third wave of the virus is now under way.
According to Public Health England, a total of 37,729 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in England in seven days up to June 9. This is equivalent to 67.0 cases per 100,000 people, the highest level recorded since March 2, when the rate stood at 69.6.
Several experts including the British Medical Association have backed the delay after data released on Friday, June 11, showed the rate of infection has been at its highest since January – between 1.2 and 1.4 – with daily cases in the country reaching 8,125, the highest it’s been since February.
How many people have been vaccinated in the UK?
Downing Street’s decision to extend also gives the country more time to deliver millions more doses of the vaccine. According to the latest figures, 62 per cent of UK residents have had their first jab but only 44.7 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
However, researchers from the University of Bristol and King’s College London have found that more than half the people who were firmly against getting the jab, are now open to getting vaccinated in the UK.
Could there be another lockdown?
With reportedly low death rates despite rising cases, Johnson has said that there was "nothing in the data" to suggest a third national lockdown. But he appealed for everyone to stick to the rules now to avoid lockdowns in the future.