19 July ‘terminus date’ for COVID rules – and only ‘unprecedented and remarkable’ change could derail it

Politics

19 July is the “terminus date” for England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions and it would take an “unprecedented and remarkable” change in circumstances to derail that, Michael Gove has told Sky News.

The Cabinet Office minister was speaking after Boris Johnson announced a delay to step four in England’s roadmap out of COVID-19 measures, pushing back the hoped for 21 June “Freedom Day” amid a rise in cases of the Delta variant first identified in India.

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‘It is sensible to wait just a little longer’

Mr Gove said the postponement was “regrettable”, but said “what we want to do is make sure that when we do make that move that we don’t go back”.

“Because the worst thing for business, the worst thing for any of us, would be to open up again and then to very quickly find that we had to reimpose restrictions.”

Asked if restrictions will finally end on 19 July, he said that would be the “terminus date” for COVID measures.

“It would require an unprecedented and remarkable alteration in the progress of the disease” for that to change, Mr Gove added.

More on Covid-19

The PM told a Downing Street news conference on Monday that postponing step four would allow for more people to receive their second jab before further easing of restrictions takes place, with evidence showing that the current vaccines provide a high level of protection against the Indian variant.

The proposed extension will be reviewed to see if action can be taken two weeks sooner on Monday 5 July.

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What, if anything, has made Johnson pause the lifting restrictions?

However, Mr Johnson did announce some changes, scrapping the 30-person limit on weddings from 21 June as planned and removing the requirement for care home residents to quarantine for 14 days after day trips.

The decision to delay has attracted criticism from several Tory MPs, with Steve Baker, a member of the COVID Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservative backbench MPs saying the public must “see true freedom again”.

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