Robert Peston

Why the 21 June unlocking will probably not go ahead

Why the 21 June unlocking will probably not go ahead
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The Prime Minister’s roadmap rules would logically dictate not moving to stage four of lockdown easing on 21 June, but delaying by two or four weeks – because the increase in the R transmission rate to more than one is driven in part by the stage two and stage three easings and not just by the greater transmissibility of the Delta variant.

As Nadhim Zahawi said on the Peston show last Wednesday, the more significant characteristic of the Delta variant is that one vaccine dose is not terribly effective against it, though two doses provides decent protection. And that good protection kicks in two or three weeks after the second dose. So with all vulnerable groups targeted to have both doses by 21 June, the government would want to add a fortnight to that date before fully unlocking.

That would also provide another fortnight of data to reassure the government that increased infections are not translating into significantly increased hospitalisations. The case for a four week delay is that with R already above one because of the surge in mobility caused by stage two and three easings, it would be prudent to delay full unlocking until schools and universities have broken up in July, because that should naturally reduce the social mixing that spreads the virus.

So, for what it is worth, my view is that when the PM is in Cornwall this weekend for his summit with G7 government heads, a chunk of his brain will be choosing between a two and four week delay to full unlocking. I simply can’t see him pressing ahead with unlocking on 21 June.

Written byRobert Peston

Robert Peston is Political Editor of ITV News and host of the weekly political discussion show Peston. His articles originally appeared on his ITV News blog.

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Topics in this articlePolitics21 junecovidlockdown