Matt Hancock, in what will be considered the clearest indication to date that the target date for the lifting of all restrictions could slip, pointed out that June 21 was a “not before” date and that it was not. ‘was only “listed” as the next stage of containment.
The senior government minister also hinted that social distancing may continue beyond the final stage of the prime minister’s roadmap.
The comments come as Covid-19 cases continued to rise in the UK amid reports Boris Johnson plans to delay so-called Freedom Day by at least two weeks in order to allow more of people to be fully vaccinated against the Indian variant.
The Health Secretary, asked if the removal of restrictions on June 21 could be postponed if the data for the Indian variant “got bad”, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are absolutely open to doing so if that’s what has to happen.
“We said in the roadmap that June 21 is the date we will not go to step 4 before then and we will look at the data.
“This is exactly what we are doing, so the roadmap has been put in place to be able to accommodate these kinds of changes. “
It has been reported that revisions to the roadmap could cause the government to backtrack to encourage a return to the workplace, while social distancing in bars and restaurants should remain, along with limits on audience in theaters and cinemas.
Mr Hancock admitted that the emergence of the Indian variant, which has become dominant in the UK, made the ‘math’ about whether to proceed with the unlock this month ‘more difficult’ as he revealed that the latter Scientific advice is that the mutation – also known as the Delta variant – is 40% more transmissible than the Kent strain.
The Health Secretary, with a decision on easing the lockdown expected next week, said he would not “rule out” measures such as wearing face coverings in public places and working from home if possible continuing long term.
“The way we look at it is that Step 4 involves removing the remaining social restrictions like the rule of six and some of the business closures that are still there,” he said on the show.
“And separately, we have work on what the social distancing rules should be after that. “
In a separate interview with Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday program, Mr Hancock said the government “has yet to define the approach to social distancing after Stage 4” and that plans are currently underway. development course with scientific advisers on how to proceed. without issue.
Labor has indicated they may support some restrictions that remain in place as long as they are corroborated by evidence.
Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green told Sky News: “I would say if we are to maintain some safeguards beyond June 21, this is what the government should be doing, but I think ‘it’s really important that this is a decision made on the basis of the data. “
Hancock said he expected “about three-fifths” of all adults to be fully vaccinated within the next fortnight, with 52% currently double-injected, as indicators suggest the vaccines are helping to sever the link between the increase in cases and an increase in hospital admissions.
Former Prime Minister and Labor leader Tony Blair argued that those who received both injections should be given additional freedoms to get people to accept the offer of vaccination.
“I think since everyone will be able to get vaccinated except those who cannot for medical reasons, I think it is really important that people are encouraged to get vaccinated”, a- he told the Andrew Marr Show.
The campaign to roll out vaccines for every adult by the end of July continues at a steady pace as the Health Secretary announced that those under 30 will be asked to reserve for their first dose this week.
The vaccination campaign comes amid growing fears that the Indian variant is fueling an increase in the number of cases across Britain.
Of the 12,431 cases of Indian variants confirmed to date in the UK, 10,797 are in England, 1,511 in Scotland, 97 in Wales and 26 in Northern Ireland.
The UK on Friday recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases – 6,238 – since the end of March, according to official figures, although the number on Saturday fell slightly to 5,765 laboratory-confirmed cases.
Dame Anne Johnson, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London (UCL), said reopening would be a “very finely-judged decision” and society will have to learn to live with the coronavirus.
Describing the data coming in this week as “absolutely critical,” the president of the Academy of Medical Sciences told Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “We certainly don’t want to continue delaying indefinitely. It will be a very finely judged decision when we see these. results. “