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Lockdown roadmap: will lockdown be extended? And will the June 21 date still go ahead? Here's everything we know.
The fourth and final stage of lockdown-easing in England is due to be brought in on June 21, but there is increasing uncertainty over whether this date will go ahead as planned.
Many scientists have called for the government to delay Boris Johnson's planned roadmap, due to risks posed by mutant variants of coronavirus.
The fourth stage of lockdown-easing would all legal limits on social contact lifted, which would effectively mark the end of lockdown.
Due to concerns over the Indian variant, however, many experts are claiming we should delay the plans.
A number of experts have called for the government to delay the planned June 21 date.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), recently spoke about the issue on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
He said: |Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this.
"As long as it’s clear to people this is not an unlimited extension of the lockdown but actually just a reassessment, that would be realistic.
“Because we didn’t plan for the 617.2 variant when the initial roadmap was made, and actually things have gone really well except for the fact that we have this new variant to complicate things.
"We must remember this is a virus that does adapt, and faced with vaccines it will eventually start to make mutations to avoid them even further, and then we could be in an even more precarious situation after that.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, has also called on the government to rethink plans.
He said: |The Government must hold off making a final decision on whether lockdown is fully lifted on June 21 until latest data can be scientifically considered.
"The Prime Minister had pledged he would be guided by ‘data not dates’, and it’s vital that he now honours this commitment."
Currently, we don't know whether lockdown will be extended or not.
A recent report by the Guardian suggested that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was 'willing to accept a delay of up to four weeks'.
On Sunday June 6, Matt Hancock confirmed that the government is 'open' to delaying lockdown.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, he said: "We are absolutely open to doing that if that's what needs to happen. We said in the roadmap 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 roadmap was set up in order to be able to take these sort of changes into account."
On May 27, Boris Johnson told reporters during a visit to an Essex hospital that he does not "see anything currently in the data" that suggests the date might be delayed, but added that "we may need to wait" for more data.
He continued: "Don't forget the important point about the intervals between the steps of the roadmap, we put that five weeks between those steps to give us time to see what effect the unlockings are having."
Environment secretary George Justice recently told the BBC: “The Prime Minister has said all along that he is going to take this one step at a time and will only make the judgment on the next step, on June 21, about a week before that.
"I think he is excepted to say something in a couple of weeks' time on June 14.
"The rates are going up again slightly but from a low base and probably to be expected, given there are a significant number of younger people who are now out and mixing but haven't had the vaccine - I suppose that is to be expected.
"But the right thing to do in a couple of weeks' time is to assess that data before deciding what we can do."
When announcing his roadmap earlier this year, Boris Johnson said that all lockdown-easing would be driven by 'data not dates' and subject to the following four tests being met:
Ministers have said that a decision on whether the June 21 date will go ahead won't be made until June 14.