PM had to be cautious on next step, says MP

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Honiton's MP said he was disappointed by the government’s decision to delay ‘freedom day’ and push back step four of the roadmap for a further four weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson  announced last week that the final easing of lockdown restrictions in England would be halted and that the ‘not before’ June 21 date would not be enacted.

He announced that a new July 19 ‘terminus date’ was when all restrictions on social contact could be lifted, barring the emergence of a game-changing new variant, although there was the unlikely scenario in two weeks’ time when if the data is better than expected, restrictions could be lifted earlier.

The announcement means that social distancing guidance will remain in place, as will the guidance to work from home, while the ‘rule of six’ indoors and the ‘rule of 30’ outdoors continues.

The delay means the reopening of nightclubs will be postponed, but an exemption was made for wedding ceremonies, although venues will still have to adhere to social distancing rules.

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “I am disappointed that a full unlocking cannot go ahead on 21 June, but I do accept the need to delay. The Delta variant has meant that the Prime Minister has had no choice but to be cautious. However, even a short delay will have an adverse impact on certain sectors, especially the hospitality industry, and so I will be seeking further support from the Government to help businesses through the additional period of restrictions.”

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said that from a public health perspective, and with case numbers rising again across the country and with a much more transmissible variant now the dominant strain, delaying the further lifting of restrictions would be sensible.

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He said: “Not only would that maintain the rules around social contact, but the delay would also allow more people to receive their first or second jabs, offering them valuable protection against this latest strain.

“I ask all Devon residents to be patient. We will get there, but we need to move with great caution.

“We are seeing case numbers start to rise in the county and we will see the Delta variant becoming the dominant strain.

“We must therefore continue to follow the all-important rules on social distancing, wearing face coverings when indoors in public places and washing our hands regularly.

“Please continue to get tested regularly using the rapid lateral flow tests, and self-isolate if you test positive or are asked to do so by contact tracing teams, and please take up the vaccination when you are invited to do so.”

And Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart, said that as the country is in a race between our vaccination roll-out and the more infectious variant of the virus, he believed this delay was inevitable.

He said: “We need to close the gap between the proportion of our population who’ve had two jabs and those who’ve only had one because the difference in protection is very, very marked. And we must encourage younger people to book their vaccinations if they haven’t already done so.

“I think many residents of Devon will be pleased with this delay as the county has already been very busy with visitors, but I have to repeat my plea to the Government to ensure that our hospitality businesses continue to receive support.

“We’re entering their peak time now and these continuing restrictions will obviously hamper their ability to operate at full capacity, so it is vital that they receive help, and in the meantime, Devon County Council will continue to do everything in its power to ensure our economy recovers strongly from the pandemic.”

The extension of restrictions will be put to a Commons vote, with a debate expected on Wednesday, as the current legislation expires on June 30.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, the Prime Minister strongly said he intended the four week delay to be the last one.

And he said that while June 21 had been a ‘not before’ date, he believed July 19 was a final date.

He said: “I’m pretty confident that July 19 will be a terminus date and we will be able to take things forward from there.”

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