Rishi Sunak 'willing to accept four-week delay' of June 21 lockdown-easing in England
9 June 2021, 11:37 | Updated: 9 June 2021, 12:27
The government is reportedly considering pushing back the planned June 21 date.
Rishi Sunak is willing to accept a delay of the planned June 21 date for the final stage of lockdown-easing in England, it has been claimed.
According to a report by the Guardian, which comes days before the government is due to make an announcement on whether the date will go ahead, the Chancellor is open to a delay of up to four weeks.
A Whitehall source said that Mr Sunak is more concerned with the lifting of lockdown being permanent than the June 21 date going ahead as planned, saying: "The Treasury’s main thing is that freedoms are irreversible and businesses have clarity."
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The Treasury is said to prefer a clean delay to lockdown-easing, rather than a 'halfway house' where some measures would remain in place.
The report adds economic support packages like furlough are set to taper off this year, which would help with the impact of the delay. The source added: "This is exactly why we went long."
A delay of up to four weeks would allow over-50s to have had their second jabs before reopening, and it would also coincide with the start of the school holidays.
The fourth and final stage of lockdown-easing would see all legal limits on social contact lifted, meaning nightclubs and large events could reopen, with the cap on weddings and indoor mixing removed.
It was reported earlier this week that the government were considering a two-week delay because of concerns over coronavirus variants, which would mean the date is pushed back to July 5.
Insiders have said that the decision will be made based to data on the Delta variant, with a source telling the Telegraph: "The scientists are more in favour of a two-week extension and that is certainly one of the options that has been put in the papers for ministers."
Over the weekend, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the government is 'open' to delaying the June 21 date.
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."
Boris Johnson is due to make an announcement on whether the date will go ahead as planned on Monday.