The Prime Minister has recently announced that Lockdown easing in England will be delayed by four weeks. All current COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place within England for four more weeks after the planned 21st June date, government sources have told the BBC. This comes with not enough of the UK population yet being inoculated in order to achieve so-called herd immunity, despite the success of the vaccine rollout.
Senior ministers have signed off on the decision to delay the lifting of all legal restrictions on social contact. That could mean capacity limits for sports, pubs and cinemas will remain, and nightclubs would stay closed. This has been a concern for many business owners who have had this target in sight for many months leading to this. As a result, firms will once more have to carry on with reduced numbers of consumers entering their shops or stadia and consequently will lead to even more lost potential revenue.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to confirm the delay at a news conference later - at 18:00 BST.
Politically, the decision may trigger a sizable Conservative backbench rebellion. This comes as Sir Keir Starmer has already criticized the government's response over the course of this pandemic, and now conservative minorities are also in disagreement over the PM’s alleged decision to delay the easing further.
England was due to move to stage four of the government's roadmap out of lockdown on 21 June, when venues and events would be allowed to operate without capacity limits and the cap on guests at weddings would be lifted. It would also have meant an end to the current rules which limit gatherings at home to six people or two households. This would have been a great success for the government if they would have proceeded with the original plan, as could have seen an increase in productivity within the UK economy. This would have boosted activity from economic agents and produced more tax revenue for the UK government in various tax forms such as VAT, or direct tax from corporation tax or business taxes too.
However, many scientists have argued that the decision should be postponed due to the public health risks. This has reinforced the government's delaying of restrictions with the spread of the new Delta COVID-19 variant, which is more infectious than other previous variants. Health Minister Edward Argar told BBC Breakfast that he could not confirm the delay before the prime minister's announcement, but that there was a "concerning increase" in cases of the Delta variant and numbers in the hospital were "beginning to creep up".
This is apparent as the government is taking a steady approach to normal life, and believes it is better to wait for the majority of the population to receive a second vaccine dose before radical decisions are made. At the current rates of vaccination, over four weeks they would be able to administer nearly 10 million second doses to increase protection. This is a very optimistic figure, but one that is considered more realistic than the previous date.
This comes with the government’s ethos throughout the course of the pandemic, promoting short term pain for long term gain. The government seeks this slogan as it wants to achieve macroeconomic stability in the long run. Increased public health as a result of delaying the easing of restrictions means more people are protected from the virus. This means that as more people are healthy, they can contribute to the workforce when the lockdown is lifted and so contribute to the LRAS of the economy (productive capacity). This means that the UK can be set for stable future growth and ready to phase back to a normal economy, despite the last negative economic growth figure. UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 2.1% in March 2021, the fastest monthly growth since August 2020, as schools in some parts of the UK reopened throughout the month, according to the ONS.
However, it has been said that the UK has already opened up and is on this path, despite restrictions still being in place across the UK. Therefore this questions the necessity to hold back the reopening of the nation and poses the question of whether the decision made tonight is the most effective, or not.
Written by Euan Taylor