UK Covid live news: minister says four-week delay in England lockdown easing could let extra 10m people get second jab

Good morning. One of the important aims of government communication is to ensure that, if there is bad news to announce, it does not come as a shock or a surprise. Early this evening Boris Johnson is due to tell the nation, from a press conference at No 10, that although all final lockdown restrictions for England were meant to be released from 21 June under step 4 of his roadmap, that is being delayed, probably for a month.

Downing Street has not officially confirmed any of this yet. But over the last week or two the prospect has been floated in the media repeatedly, and in recent days there has been no attempt from government to deny that this is the plan. We don’t have the full details, but the broad outline of what is coming is known. Here is our overnight preview story.

Edward Argar, the health minister, has been giving interviews. He has been sticking to the line that it will be for the PM to make the announcement, but he has also effectively confirmed that a four-week delay is planned, telling the Today programme that this would allow an extra 10 million people to get a second dose of vaccine.

Argar said this was important because a first dose of vaccine is only 31% effective against the Delta variant, which originated in India and now accounts for more than 90% of cases in the UK. But after two doses vaccines are 81% effective, he said. He went on:

Now, were the prime minister to to delay things, those four weeks or say that we’re talking about, at a run rate which we’ve got at the moment of about, at the weekend it was about 275,000 second doses a day – that increases during the week – that would mean you would close that gap in that time between the [41m people who have have had a first dose and 29m who have had a second]. You’d get that extra 10m done, therefore [getting them up to the 81% protection].

Here is the agenda for the day.

9am: Sir Keir Starmer holds his regular LBC phone-in.

12.30pm: Vaughan Gething, the Welsh government’s economy minister, holds a press conference.

3pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.

Around 6pm: Boris Johnson is expected to hold a press conference confirming that the final lifting of lockdown restrictions for England has been delayed.

Earlier Johnson will be at the Nato summit in Brussels.

Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that will be the case today, although we will be focusing mostly on the PM’s announcement. For global Covid developments, do read our global live blog.

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UPDATE: After this was posted, No 10 said the lobby briefing would be at 3pm, and so that listing has been changed.

Edward Argar

Edward Argar. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA


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