The British Government is ‘absolutely open’ to delaying the unlocking of England on June 21 if the Indian variant worsens the Health Secretary Matt Hanclock has said.
In what will be seen as the clearest indication yet that the target date for lifting all restrictions could be delayed, Hancock stressed that June 21 was only “pencilled in” as the next step out of lockdown.
He also implied that social distancing may have to continue beyond the final stage of the Prime Minister’s road map.
AOL reports: The comments come as Covid-19 cases have continued to surge in the UK amid reports Boris Johnson is considering delaying so-called freedom day by at least two weeks in order to allow more people to be fully vaccinated against the Indian variant.
The Health Secretary, pressed on whether the June 21 removal of restrictions could be postponed if the Indian variant data “gets bad”, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen.
“We said in the road map that June 21 is the date by which we would not take Step 4 before that date and that we would look at the data.
“That is exactly what we are doing, so the road map was set up in order to be able to take these sort of changes into account.”
Mr Hancock admitted the emergence of the Indian variant, which has become dominant in the UK, had made the “calculation” on whether to proceed with unlocking this month “more difficult” as he confirmed the latest scientific advice is that the mutation – also known as the Delta variant – is 40% more transmissible than the Kent strain.
The Health Secretary said he “wouldn’t rule out” measures such as wearing face coverings in public settings and working from home where possible continuing in the long term.
“The way we are looking at this is Step 4 involves the removal of the remaining social restrictions like the rule of six and some of the business closures which are still there,” he told the show.
“And separately we have a piece of work on what the social distancing rules should be after that.”
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