It’s a date that’s stuck in our mind like never before: June 21, midsummer, the day when all remaining restrictions could be lifted. But is it actually going to happen? When will we find out? And why is there so much talk about a delay?
Here are five questions you may have about the date, answered.
When will we find out about June 21 easing?
We won’t be waiting another two weeks to find out about the big ‘unlockdown’. The government is expected to announce on June 14 whether or not all final restrictions will be lifted in England as of 21 June.
They plan to announce this a week before to give businesses and venues who are yet to open the chance to prepare.
On June 6, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The roadmap has always been guided by the data and as before, we need four weeks between steps to see the latest data and a further week to guide our decision. So, we’ll assess the data and announce the outcome … on June 14”.
June 21 is set to mark step four in England’s roadmap out of lockdown, which started in January 2021. It’s hoped that by June 21, all legal limits on social contact could be removed, according to UK government guidelines. This would mean you could meet up with as many people as you wanted to, indoors or outside, rather than abiding by the rule of six.
Venues still closed, such as nightclubs, are also set to reopen and mass events, from concerts to sports games and larger weddings, will also be allowed to take place.
Step four could also mean a lifting of measures like social distancing, wearing face coverings indoors in public places and on public transport, and no longer being urged to work from home.
These measures were all put in place to reduce transmission. However, with a new and seemingly more transmissible variant doing the rounds, it’s not guaranteed that these will be lifted so soon.
What’s all this talk of a two-week delay?
There have been rumours about the June 21 date being delayed by two weeks, amid rising cases of the Delta variant in the UK – and you may be wondering what difference this will actually make.
This delay would ensure that all those over 50 are fully vaccinated – with two doses of the jab – as well as giving enough time for the vaccine to take effect. This is because people are only considered fully vaccinated two to three weeks after their second dose, as it takes time for the jab to give protection.
A cabinet source reportedly told The Times the delay in the lifting of lockdown could be between “two weeks and a month” – and they believed the impact of this delay would be limited “if restrictions are fully lifted in time for the start of the summer holidays” – this would be in late July.
PA Media reported that chancellor Rishi Sunak would be “willing to accept” a short delay to step four of the roadmap to ending the lockdown amid a rise in cases, despite the possible economic impact.
What will impact the government’s decision?
On June 9, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said cases are “clearly rising” and that the prime minister is reviewing a “range of data” to make a decision on June 21. “We created this five-week period between the stages of the road map and that has actually proved invaluable on this occasion, because it’s a finely balanced decision,” he told Sky News.
He said the government will look not just at whether cases are rising, but also the link to hospitalisations and ultimately to death. “So the prime minister is reviewing that ahead of the decision point, which is going to be June 14 – at that point of course he will let everybody know what the ultimate decision is.”
Will England’s lockdown really end on June 21?
Some scientists have called for urgent action to reduce the spread of the Delta variant and prevent a third wave.
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and government adviser, told Sky News that there’s a “significant chance” the June 21 target will change.
Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, said: “It’s clear that even if we move forward as we are, and don’t open up further on June 21, we’re still likely to face a wave exceeding Jan – so postponing June 21 isn’t sufficient.”
While Matt Hancock acknowledged there had been a “very significant” impact from the Delta variant, on June 6, he said it was too early to make a final decision on the June 21 opening.
Despite this, on June 8, Michael Gove told colleagues that if he were a “betting man” he would “bet on a relaxation” of England’s Covid rules on June 21. He made the comments during a ministerial meeting on June 7 as Boris Johnson prepared to make a decision on whether to proceed with so-called “freedom day” on the planned date.
In short, it looks like we’ll be waiting until June 14 until we know for sure.