Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he will not tolerate a further delay to the lifting on lockdown restrictions past July 19
Rishi Sunak has said Freedom Day will come on July 19 and that he will not tolerate further lockdowns beyond the lifting of restrictions next month.
The Chancellor was speaking at a football event with schoolchildren and said that the four-week delay to the end of restrictions was to allow for the speed up of the vaccination roll out.
He told the Sun on Sunday: ‘It was a specific extension for a specific purpose, which was to get some more jabs into more people’s arms.
‘We’re accomplishing that, so it just shouldn’t be necessary to delay any further.’
It comes as experts have warned that the Government should not rush into the easing of lockdown restrictions but that the data looks ‘encouraging’.
Mr Sunak was visiting a new government-funded sports facility in West London this week as Euro 2020 enters the knock-out stages.
Apologising for falling short of public expectation, he added: ‘My strong hope and expectation is we are getting this done on July 19 because the vaccine programme will have given us that extra level of protection that was required by then.
‘It’s been a really tough time for tons of businesses. Hopefully they feel we have done as much as we can to support them.
‘I know we’ve not been able to do everything that people want and for that I’m sorry, but I think we’ve done a huge amount.
‘Now the most important thing is to reopen the economy so that they can get back to doing what they want, which is to have us back as customers and get their staff back — and off we go.’
Mr Sunak said the delay to the lifting of restrictions was to allow for the progression of the vaccination roll out but that this should provide enough protection for the country next month
Mr Sunak visited Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub in West London to participate in several sessions with students from local schools.
It comes after the government committed £25 million of new funding to support the growth of grassroots football at the Budget earlier this year – enough money to build around 700 new pitches across the UK.
At the visit, the Chancellor met a disability community sports group before helping to set up a training session for an all-girls football group from local schools, along with their coach, as well as Brentford FC player Joshua Dasilva.
Last year, the government introduced the £300 million Sport Winter Survival Package to protect spectator sports in England and, at Budget this year, a further £300 million was announced for a Sport Recovery Package to continue to support clubs as fans return to venues.
Mr Sunak at Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub, a government funded sports facility in west London
The government committed £25m of new funding to support the growth of grassroots football
It comes as Professor Sir Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), has warned that the Government should not ‘rush’ into easing Covid-19 restrictions in England in July.
Earlier this month, concerns over the spread of the Delta variant led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushing back the June 21 target date to remove all legal limits on social contact to July 19.
Professor Horby said: ‘We always have to be driven by the data, not the dates.’
He told the the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘So we’re watching it very carefully and there will be a lot of analysis of the data coming up to that date, to make sure we’re comfortable with that release.
‘At the moment, the data is encouraging that we can do that. But we have to make sure that we follow the data.’
People enjoying sitting outside at the Boatman pub and restaurant. Windsor was busy
Experts have warned the Government should not rush into the easing of lockdown restrictions
Prof Horby, who is also professor of emerging infectious diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, said he would not bring the restrictions easing date forward, adding that it had been ‘very sensible’ to delay it by four weeks.
‘I don’t think we should rush into anything, we really want to make sure that we can release all restrictions and not have to backtrack at all,’ he added.
Mr Johnson previously said there would be a two-week review after the June 14 delay announcement, with an update from the Government expected on Monday.
On Sunday, NHS England said half of all adults under 30 in England had received a Covid-19 vaccine, with more than 4.2 million people aged 18 to 29 jabbed in three weeks.
Over the weekend, hundreds of walk-in vaccination sites, including at stadiums and shopping centres, opened in England as part of the ‘grab a jab’ campaign to boost vaccine uptake.
The Government said that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 18,270 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, while a further 23 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 128,089.
Public health professor Linda Bauld told Trevor Phillips on Sky News that rising Covid-19 cases were a ’cause for concern’ but that the proportion of people requiring hospital treatment was ‘more positive news’.
She said: ‘The proportion of people going into hospital as a proportion of cases is far, far lower.
‘For example at the beginning of this year it might have been 10-15 per cent of people who would end up in hospital, now it’s about 5 per cent.
‘If that trend continues… then I think the Government is under a lot of pressure to stick with that date (July 19).
‘But all the researchers and clinicians will be saying ‘let’s make sure the data is going in the right direction’ a week or two before then.’