Boris Johnson will announce on Monday whether or not the Government is pressing ahead with the next stage of ending the lockdown.
He’s said in the past that the earliest date remaining restrictions could be lifted is June 21. What we’ll find out is whether this easing is going ahead, or whether it will be delayed.
There have been similar announcements in the past, but it’s always been easy to predict what Mr Johnson would say. He’s confirmed that the Government would go ahead with opening up society.
This time, nobody is quite sure what to expect. The Prime Minister is understood to be making a final decision over the weekend.
The difference is that Covid cases are rising again.
At the end of May, 20 people in the North East were testing positive for Covid for every 100,000 in the population. Now, that has more than doubled to 42 positive tests per 100,000 people (the figures come from Public Health England).
That’s still pretty low. When coronavirus cases were highest, which was at the very end of December last year, 453 North East people were testing positive for every 100,000 people in the population.
But the point is that the numbers are going up.
And despite the huge success of the vaccination programme, there is still a long way to go.
More than nine out of 10 people over 65 have had both doses of vaccine in the North East and Cumbria.
But just 64% of people aged 50 to 54 have had two doses in the region.
Only 60% of people aged 30 to 34 in the North East and Cumbria have even had one dose. People aged 25 to 30 have only recently been invited to book a vaccination.
Older people were vaccinated first because they are more likely to fall ill if they become infected, and more likely to die if they do fall ill.
But younger people can catch it. And they’re not entirely immune.
The problem the Government faces is that the virus appears to be returning before enough of the population has been vaccinated to keep us all safe.
This is why it’s possible that the final stage of ending the lockdown could be delayed.
However, whatever the Prime Minister announces on Monday, we have reached a stage where the virus is going to spread. For many people, lockdown is already more or less over.
You can mingle in a pub, meet friends and family indoors, stay at a hotel (in the UK) or go to a gym.
The shops are open. It’s true that if you hold a dinner party you’re limited to six people - that’s a restriction that could end on June 21 - but you can have the party.
The infection rate is going to rise no matter what Mr Johnson says, unless he actually announces that old lockdown rules are returning - which won’t happen.
The strategy now is to rely on the vaccines, and the natural resilience of younger people, to allow us to live with the virus.