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Most coronavirus rules will remain in place in England for another four weeks after the planned 21 June unlocking.
The prime minister has announced the expected delay until 19 July to lift legal restrictions on social contact and for capacity limits for sports, pubs and cinemas to remain. Nightclubs will stay closed.
[pullquote]We are now approaching a cliff edge, with government support for business ending or beginning to taper off” – Dr Roger Barker, policy director, Institute of Directors[/pullquote]
The delay, which was linked to the need to fully vaccinate two-thirds of the adult population, could be the cue for a sizeable Conservative backbench rebellion when the Commons votes on it in the near future.
The 21 June date was always a “not before” date the prime minister said, adding that 19 July was a “terminus date”.
Originally the plan was for the mixing of households to be permissible after 21 June; but this would have greatly accelerated the spread of the Delta variant, said the government's chief scientific and medical advisers Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty.
By delaying the lifting of restrictions, they added, the peak in the spread of the Delta variant would be reduced by between 30-50%. But there would still be an increase in cases and hospitalisations.
There was no mention of extensions of business and job support measures in the announcement.
The Institute of Directors has warned that the effect on businesses could be significant, referring to a cliff edge of costs.
Dr Roger Barker, the IoD’s director of policy, said: “Clearly this is a blow for many businesses, particularly those in the retail and hospitality sectors.
“We are now approaching a cliff edge, with government support for business ending or beginning to taper off. It is vital that this support is pushed out commensurately with the lockdown extension. Economic support and public health measures must be aligned.”
He listed the additional costs businesses faced at the end of June, drawing attention to quarterly rent due on 23 June and the need for businesses to start contributing 10% towards furlough costs from 1 July.