Government draw up 'alternative options' for June 21 as lockdown easing in doubt

A government source has revealed officials remain eager to ease restrictions within weeks – but are drawing up alternative options too as doubts grow, reports say.

However the government figure told Sky News they still expect the June 21 unlocking to go ahead.

Ministers are said to be looking at keeping some measures to curb the spread of the virus as restrictions ease further.

They include delaying the end of official work from home recommendations, and maintaining face mask rules.

Reports earlier this week suggested advice to employers to keep staff out of the workplace could linger beyond the end of June.

Sky reports decision-makers are discussing retaining retaining orders for the public to wear face masks in certain settings and continuing the work from home advice.

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People wear masks at a Tube station
Face coverings may remain mandatory in some settings like public transport beyond June 21

The source suggested such measures could linger even as previously shut sections of the hospitality sector like night clubs and mass events reopen.

“It would be remiss of us to take a decision without a full set of data as evidence,” the source told the broadcaster.

“Of course officials are drawing up other options but we are still expecting to be in a place to go ahead on June 21.”

But an expert on an advisory group to the Government warned it is clear that it would be “foolish” and a “major risk” to go ahead with the June 21 reopening, an expert on an advisory group to the Government warned.

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More than two-thirds of areas in England are now recording rises in Covid case rates, official figures showed Friday.

Surge testing has been extended to areas of Berkshire, Kent and West Yorkshire as more cases are detected.

Blackburn in Lancashire has overtaken Bolton, Greater Manchester as the top Covid hotspot this week.

Caroline Nicolls receives an injection of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine administered by nurse Amy Nash, at the Madejski Stadium in Reading
Nearly 40million first doses of Covid jabs have been administered nationwide

However the UK’s vaccine coverage met milestones this week with three-quarters of the adult population having received at least one dose.

The UK also recorded its first zero death toll since the summertime on Tuesday.

However scientists fear new variants could continue spreading and mutating among yet to be vaccinated groups as the next stage of unlocking proceeds.

Professor Stephen Reicher said there is currently enough evidence to say one of the Government’s four key tests for its road map out of lockdown has not been met.

The member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), which advises the Government, said the criteria about the current assessment of the risks not being fundamentally changed by new variants of concern is “not upheld” due to the spread of the Indian variant.

Prof Richter told the PA news agency: “I think by the Government’s own criteria it’s quite clear that it would be foolish to proceed on the data that we’ve got at the moment. The risk would be very great indeed.

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“And of course it’s a balance of risks but I think it would be a major risk to go further in opening up.”

He added: “Again, I make the point that it is about data not dates, and if you make it too much about the dates then you box yourself into a corner and I think that’s what the Government has done.”



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