Boris Johnson Extends Coronavirus Restrictions for Another Four Weeks

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at Downing Street on April 20, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool / Getty Images)
Toby Melville - WPA Pool / Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the proposed end to all Chinese coronavirus-related restrictions in England has been postponed from June 21st to July 19th.

During a press conference on Monday evening, Prime Minister Johnson said that due to the spread of the Indian variant, the related rise of intensive care cases in hospitals, and sectors of the adult population still not being vaccinated, “we’ve faced a very difficult choice”.

The prime minister continued: “Since today, I cannot say that we have met all our four tests for proceeding with Step Four [of easing restrictions] on June the 21st. I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.”

“To give the NHS that extra time, we will hold off Step 4 openings until July the [19th],” Mr Johnson said, continuing: “We will monitor the position every day, and if after two weeks we have concluded that the risk has diminished, then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to Step 4 and a full opening sooner.”

“As things stand, and on the evidence I can see right now, I’m confident that we will not need more than four weeks and will not need to go beyond July the 19th,” Mr Johnson said.

“We will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalisations down with this disease and to complete our cautious, but irreversible, roadmap to freedom,” the prime minister concluded.

Government sources have been briefing the media in recent days that the prime minister was planning on pushing back ‘Freedom Day’. With news outlets reporting on Monday that Mr Johnson would be briefing the press this evening, Conservative MPs including Peter Bone saying it was “disrespectful” that the prime minister had decided to announce such a “major change to government policy” to the media first, rather than the democratically-elected lawmakers in the House of Commons.

“I can think of no more important policy announcement than changes to regulations that restrict the freedom of the British people. However, it appears that the government is planning to do a major news conference on COVID regulations at 6 pm this evening, but the Secretary of State for Health [Matt Hancock] isn’t making his statement until 8:30 pm in the House,” Mr Bone said, calling the move a “clear breach of the parliamentary convention” and the ministerial code.

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, agreed, claiming that there would not have been a parliamentary statement today had he not spoken with Downing Street.

Condemning the fact that elected officials were the last to officially be informed of the decision, Sir Lindsay said: “I find it totally unacceptable that once again that we see Downing Street running roughshod over Members of Parliament. We’re not accepting it. I’m at the stage where I’m beginning to look for other avenues if they’re not going to treat this House seriously… I think it’s time for me to have a meeting with the prime minister to actually put on the record, here, now, but with him, that this House matters.”

The UK was thrust into its third lockdown days after New Year, with the prime minister giving no indication of an end date. Less than two weeks ago, Prime Minister Johnson said he saw “nothing in the data” to suggest the planned release from measures should not go ahead; by last weekend, Johnson had indicated that due to the Indian variant, those plans may be on hold.

While England had been moving by stages out of this lockdown’s more stringent measures, more than six months after going into new restrictions, the certainty that this recent deadline could hold is in question. Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned on Monday morning that “the more we delay, the less likely we are to come out of this. We’ve got ourselves into a spiral of fear.”

“If we don’t unlock now, we will hurtle into September and then the scientists will all be saying ‘the winter, you mustn’t unlock during the winter’,” Sir Iain said.

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