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Freedom Day has officially been postponed as the June 21 plans to lift lockdown restrictions in England have been pushed back to July 19.
Boris Johnson delivered the devastating news at a Downing Street press conference on Monday after two of the four tests needed to progress in the roadmap out of lockdown were not met.
These are the tests on variants changing the risks; and the risk of a “surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”.
But there will be an easing of the rules from June 21 for weddings, care homes, and wakes.
Speaking from Downing Street, the PM said: "When we set out on our roadmap to freedom a few months ago we were determined to make progress that was cautious but irreversible and step-by-step, thanks to the enormous efforts of the British people and the spectacular vaccine rollout, we now have one of the most open economies and societies in Europe.
"As we have always known and as the February roadmap explicitly predicted, this opening up over the last three steps has inevitably been accompanied by more infection and more hospitalisation.
"We must be clear that we cannot simply eliminate Covid. We must learn to live with it."
He added: "Since today I cannot say we have met all our four tests for proceeding with step four on June 21. I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.
"By July 19 we will have double jabbed around two thirds of the adult population, including everyone over 50, all the vulnerable all frontline health and care workers and everyone over 40 who received their first dose by mid-May.
"To give the NHS that extra time we will hold off step 4 openings until July 29."
It appears Mr Johnson made a mistake when he said July 29 and actually meant July 19.
Limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas will therefore remain in place, nightclubs will stay shut and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.
Downing Street left open the option of ending restrictions on July 5 if the data proves drastically better than expected but conceded this is "unlikely".
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Mr Johnson did, however, announce a limited easing of restrictions to take place from June 21 as he faces the prospect of a rebellion from Conservative MPs who are furious about the delay.
The 30-person cap for wedding ceremonies and receptions, as well as wakes, will be lifted, with limits to be set by venues based on social distancing requirements.
Care home residents will also no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving for visits in most cases.
Fans were expected to be able to attend the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final in Wembley as the pilots on attendance of large events continue.
Businesses including pubs, bars and restaurants now face losing a whopping £3bn in sales over the month-long delay, according to UK Hospitality.
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Experts feared going ahead with Step 4 on June 21 as planned could lead to hospital admissions on the scale of the first wave of Covid-19 heaping unsustainable pressure on the health service.
It means friends and relatives will also have to wait longer to gather at home in groups of more than six or with more than two households.
Face masks will still have to be worn in shops, on public transport and in pubs.
Social distancing, the 'rule of six' and a 30-strong cap on outdoor gatherings will also stay in force while cases remain high.
Reports had suggested the PM would adopt a "mix and match" approach to lifting lockdown restrictions from June 21 amid rising fears of a third wave of Covid infections.
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Many scientists had called for the reopening to be delayed to allow more people to be vaccinated and receive second doses.
The Delta variant sparked a surge in infections and has replaced the Kent mutation as the most prevalent in the UK.
Mr Johnson said on Saturday that the spiralling numbers were a "serious, serious concern".
Nightclubs, which have remained closed throughout lockdown, were not expected to be allowed to reopen on June 21.
Sources suggested July 19 as a potential new opening day for them.
The PM’s official spokesman said the extension means “thousands more deaths can be prevented” as it gives time to get more people jabbed.
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The spokesman said: “Vaccine effectiveness, especially after two doses, means thousands more deaths can be prevented if more people are jabbed.
“As the Chief Medical Officer has said, at some stage we are going to have to live with this virus as we do with flu.
“But when we have effective vaccines and a variant that needs two doses for maximum protection, it is right to allow more time to save lives.”
Fears that wedding events could become "super-spreader" put the brakes on plans to lift the 30-person cap on guests, reports said.
The government needs to extend Step 3 regulations – which end on 30 June – to end on 18-19 July.
- Boris Johnson
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