June 21: When will Boris Johnson announce if there is a delay to ‘Freedom Day’?

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June 21 has been dubbed by many as ‘freedom day’ – when almost all restrictions on daily life will be eased after more than a year of fighting the coronavirus pandemic in England. But the date has been thrown into peril as cases of the Delta variant rise exponentially across the country.

Nearly 30,000 more cases of the Indian coronavirus variant have been confirmed in the UK in the last week, new data shows.

Public Health England said on Friday that 42,323 cases of the Delta variant have been confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from last week.

In England, 39,061 cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus have been confirmed, along with 3,035 in Scotland, 184 in Wales and 43 in Northern Ireland.

PHE added that more than 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases are now the Delta variant.

New research suggests it is associated with an approximately 60 percent increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha strain, which originated in Kent late last year and was responsible for the third lockdown in England.

The Prime Minister is now facing mounting pressure to delay the near-full unlocking of the country due to the sharp rise in cases.

A two-week delay until July 5 has been under discussion by scientists and civil servants.

The Times has reported that a four-week delay is being considered, to allow more time for people to receive vaccine doses.

When will we find out if June 21 will go ahead?

Boris Johnson expected to update parliament on the decision on Monday, June 14, a week ahead of the earmarked date.

Mr Johnson said on June 9: “On Monday… we’ll have a look at where we are.

“I think what everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up, and in some cases hospitalisations are going up.

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“What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage. And so that’s what we’ll be looking at.”

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, has urged everyone who still needs a vaccine to come forward to help stop the spread.

She said: “With numbers of Delta variant cases on the rise across the country, vaccination is our best defence.

“If you are eligible, we urge you to come forward and be vaccinated. Remember that two doses provide significantly more protection than a single dose.

“However, while vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease, it does not eliminate it.

“With data showing that Delta is significantly more transmissible than Alpha, it is just as important as ever to follow public health advice, which has not changed.

“Get vaccinated, work from home where you can and remember ‘hands, face, space, fresh air’ at all times. These measures work, and they save lives.”

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