Four more weeks

Business frets as Johnson delays Freedom Day

Boris Johnson: ‘we will have to live with it’

Boris Johnson has delayed ‘Freedom Day’ by a further four weeks, causing businesses already on the brink to warn that many may not survive the summer without further help.

The Prime Minister announced his decision after scientists warned the Indian variant of Covid-19 could be 80% more infectious.

The PM insisted he cannot press ahead with the full easing of restrictions in England as planned on 21 June until more people are have received two doses of the vaccine.

Over 41m people in the UK have had a first dose of a vaccine, while nearly 30m have had two doses. There were 7,742 new infections reported today, but just three deaths.

Mr Johnson said the disease cannot be eliminated and the country will have to learn to ‘live with it’. But he said he needed to “give the NHS a few more crucial weeks”.

He said: “I think it is sensible to wait a little longer.

The move means that current rules will remain in place until 19 July with social distancing in force in bars and restaurants, and work for home being the default position for those who can do so.

Scotland, which had planned to ease restrictions from 28 June, is certain to follow, and because it has been generally behind on dates this would suggest a full reopening in Scotland on 26 July at the earliest. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to provide an update on Tuesday.

Business groups have demanded more support in face of reports that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will not extend the furlough scheme and employers will have to start making bigger contributions next month. 

Many companies are already facing huge debts and have exhausted personal savings. Some of the support measures will be reduced during the extended period of restrictions.

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