Ministers are preparing emergency plans that could see local lockdowns brought in or the June 21 reopening delayed over concerns about the fast-spreading Indian variant of coronavirus.
In an echo of the tier system brought in last summer, people in the worst-hit areas could be told to stay at home and restaurants and shops forced to close if the new strain runs out of control in their town or city. A possible delay to the June 21 final easing of restrictions by a matter of weeks has also been discussed.
In both cases the worst-affected businesses in the hospitality industry and retail would receive grants of up to £18,000, according to The Times. Revelations of the plans have come as a blow to Boris Johnson’s ‘cautious but irreversible’ exit from lockdown, brought on by a significant rise in cases of the Indian variant.
There has been irritation at the small number of people refusing to be vaccinated after Matt Hancock yesterday told MPs that most patients hospitalised by the new strain in the epicentre of the outbreak in Bolton had not had a jab. Last night Tory ministers and MPs told the Prime Minister they would not accept the Covid curbs being extended to protect jab refuseniks.
They urged him to press ahead with the final stage of unlocking next month, even if scientists say the fast-spreading Indian variant poses a risk to the small band of anti-vaxxers. One Cabinet minister warned that missing the June 21 milestone could become Mr Johnson’s ‘Theresa May moment’ – a reference to her failed Brexit deadline.