COVID-19: England lockdown easing delayed until 19 July as Delta variant cases rise

Boris Johnson has announced a four-week delay in lifting lockdown restrictions in England to 19 July amid rising cases of the Delta variant.

The PM said the postponement of step four of the government’s roadmap, which was due to take place on 21 June, will allow for more people to receive their second jab before further easing of restrictions takes place.

The proposed extension will be reviewed to see if action can be taken two weeks sooner on Monday 5 July.

MPs will get to have their say on the delay in a Commons vote, the PM’s spokesperson has said.

The government believes the four-week delay could save thousands of lives.

The time between vaccine doses has also been shortened for people aged over 40 – from 12 weeks to eight weeks – with all in this age group to be offered a second dose by the week of 19 July.

This will mean two-thirds of adults will have been offered both doses by that date. All over-18s will have been invited for their first jab by 19 July.

The UK has recorded more than 7,000 COVID cases on each of the last six days and the Delta variant is now accounting for more than 90% of new cases.

The decision to postpone the easing of measures comes as new analysis by Public Health England (PHE) shows for the first time that two doses of COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalisation from the Delta variant.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation after a second dose, with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab 92% effective.

Despite the delay in lifting restrictions, the government has removed the 30-person limit for weddings, receptions and wakes – and the number of people who can attend such events will now depend on individual venue capacity.

Venues will conduct their own risk assessment on the number of people that can safely attend.

Rules on social distancing, singing and dancing will remain in place, with guests told to sit on tables of up to six people and receptions to be table service only.

Dance floors are forbidden inside, while for private ceremonies outdoors, dancing will not be illegal, but will be strongly advised against.

For weddings taking place inside private homes, the limit of six individuals will remain, with an exception in place for deathbed ceremonies where 30 people can attend.

The requirement for care home residents to quarantine for 14 days after a visit outside of a home has also been scrapped, however patients will still have to isolate for two weeks following a hospital visit.

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