The fourth and final part of Boris Johnson’s roadmap from winter lockdown planned for all limits on social contact to be lifted on or after 21 June, paving the way for the way for the reopening of nightclubs and full audiences at events and performances.
However, the prime minister announced on Monday that the four tests — success of the vaccination rollout, vaccine efficacy, the continuous dropping of infection rates and emergence of new variants — had not been met and that the fourth step must be delayed, until 19 July.
He also said people may wish to continue social distancing after that date.
“This is a virus that’s going to be with us forever,” Sir Patrick Vallance told the same news conference.
Limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas will therefore remain in place, nightclubs will stay shuttered and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.
Downing Street left open the option of ending restrictions on 5 July if the data proves drastically better than expected but conceded this is “unlikely”.
Mr Johnson did, however, announce a limited easing of restrictions to take place from June 21 as he faces the prospect of a rebellion from Conservative MPs who are furious about the delay.
The 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as wakes, will be lifted, with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.
We can expect masks, two-metre distancing and hand sanitiser to be with us for some time, as the vaccine rollout continues over the coming months to take in the less “at risk” groups.
Mr Johnson spent the early weeks of February urging extreme caution regarding the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
He has been placed under considerable pressure from within his own party after the Covid Recovery Group led by MPs Steve Baker and Mark Harper issued a letter signed by 63 backbenchers hailing the “tremendous pace” of the UK’s vaccine rollout – with 15m jabs already administered – and calling for the swift easing of restrictions.