Business Secretary raises hopes June 21 will remain date for lifting lockdown

Lockdown: Professor says it would be ‘risky’ to unlock on June 21

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The Business Secretary said there is “nothing in the data that suggests to me that we should move the day” of the final step in the roadmap. But Mr Kwarteng admitted it is still too early to guarantee the last stage of the plan will be met because the Indian variant of Covid is still causing concern.

 

Speaking to the BBC yesterday, he said: “The caveat obviously is the data can change. So if scientific evidence data points to an increased hospitalisation rate, increased degree of risk, then we have flexibility to move that date.”

But he added: “I didn’t think we will move the date. But I can’t guarantee that on May 28, you will appreciate I cannot guarantee that in three-and-a-half weeks’ time.”

The final stage of the Government’s plan to reopen the country would allow large events to return and nightclubs to reopen.

Limits on guest numbers at weddings and funerals would be dropped.

Lockdown critics fear a watered-down step four that will mean some restrictions will remain in place.

Hospitality chiefs have warned it is “absolutely critical” that pubs, nightclubs and restaurants can open fully without restrictions on June 21.

Mr Kwarteng said that remains the plan, but warned: “If we reopen and then for whatever reason that’s too premature, there’ll be lots and lots of people asking why on earth did you reopen, why the hell did you do that, so it’s a difficult balance.”

Mr Kwarteng did not rule out keeping businesses closed in the areas worst-impacted by the Indian variant.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, warned that many businesses are on the brink of collapse, saying: “We understand the Government needs to wait and see the data and get it right, but it is absolutely critical for hospitality as a whole, that we do unlock on June 21.

“Even just a couple of extra weeks will be devastating for many because they’ve run out of cash. They are existing on fumes at the moment and the Government support, however extensive it has been, has not been enough to cover the costs.”

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