Freedom day 'set to be delayed until 19 July'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Freedom day: it is expected that the Prime Minister will announce a delay to the final lockdown easing step (image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street via Flickr)
Freedom day: it is expected that the Prime Minister will announce a delay to the final lockdown easing step (image: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street via Flickr)

Related tags: lockdown, coronavirus, Rishi Sunak, Chancellor, Legislation, Health and safety, Nightclub, ukhospitality

The Prime Minister is expected to announce a delay of up to four weeks to the final unlocking step at a press conference tonight (Monday 14 June).

It had been hoped Boris Johnson would give the green light to step four of the Government’s lockdown easing roadmap. 

Businesses have been optimistic that rules on venues including social distancing and table service could be scrapped from 21 June.

Concerns about the more transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus will be cited by the Prime Minister, it has been reported.

The variant is thought to make up more than 90% of new Covid cases and be spreading across the country.

Vaccination progress

Health minister Ed Argar told journalists that a month’s delay in easing restrictions would give time for an extra 10m people to be given their second vaccine doses.

Ministers were discussing a “mix and match” unlocking​ with it reported that the removal of the 30 person limit for weddings could be allowed to go ahead from 21 June.

The Financial Times​ reported the delay could be reduced to two weeks if hospitalisation data looks better than expected while The Sun​ also suggested rules would be reviewed on 5 July.

A four week delay until 19 July would equate to £3bn of lost sales across the hospitality sector, according to trade body UKHospitality.

Shaken confidence

Sector groups and pub bosses have urged the Chancellor to issue an extension to financial support measures including business rates relief.

UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said the successful vaccination rollout - with more than half of UK adults given two doses - was justification to push ahead with easing on 21 June.

Nicholls said: “A full and final ending of restrictions is the only way to ensure that businesses in this sector can trade profitably. If Government decides it has to keep some restrictions in place after 21 June, then it must prioritise those that do the least damage to business and commit to further supporting the sector. 

“Confidence has been shaken so it is imperative that Government postpones business rates payments until at least October and extend the rent and debt moratoria for hospitality businesses while a long-term solution to Covid arrears is found.”

Uncertainty for clubs

A flash survey of nightlife businesses found one in four believed they would not survive longer than one month without further Government support.

The survey of 300 businesses by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) found 50% felt they would not last longer than two months without extra measures.

NTIA boss Micheal Kill urged the Government to understand the "human impact" of a decision to delay reopening nightclubs.

He added: “Distressed industries cannot continue to be held in limbo, as businesses are left to fall, any decision to delay without clarity on when they can open will leave us no other option but to challenge the Government, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening for an extreme length of time, through no fault of their own, and at their own cost.”

Related topics: Legislation

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