Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng: No guarantees "today" on June 21 lockdown end

28 May 2021, 09:31

By Daisy Stephens

Tory MP and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng refused to confirm whether the planned ending of all lockdown restrictions in England would go ahead as planned on June 21.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Friday, Mr Kwarteng said that he was “working very hard” to ensure the reopening can go ahead as planned, but that there were no guarantees.

“I really, really want to focus on the 21st of June, but what I can’t do is guarantee – give guarantees – on the 28th of May, which is today,” he said.

“And we’ve said all along, we’re doing what we’ve said all along, which is looking at the data.

“But I’m working very hard as you know to make sure that we can reopen on the 21st June.”

The next stage of the Government’s roadmap on June 21 is supposed to see all legal restrictions lifted, although there is still some uncertainty about what that might look like.

However the surge in the Indian Variant in the UK has thrown doubt on the plans.

The number of cases of the variant have doubled in a week, and health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that the strain is now the dominant one in the UK.

Whilst the evidence suggests that vaccines are effective against the strain, the fact that it appears more transmissible has left officials worried.

The decision on whether restrictions will ease on June 21 will be made on June 14.

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced that the Indian variant is now dominant in the UK
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced that the Indian variant is now dominant in the UK. Picture: Getty

In spite of Mr Kwarteng’s comments, prime minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that he didn’t "see anything currently in the data" to suggest the date would need to be delayed.

However, he also said that the Government were awaiting more figures on the variant before a decision is made.

"As I have said many times I don't see anything currently in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the road map,” said Mr Johnson.

“But we may need to wait.

"Don't forget the important point about the intervals between the steps of the road map, we put that five weeks between those steps to give us time to see what effect the unlockings are having."

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The number of cases of Covid-19 in the UK is starting to creep up again as restrictions are eased, with 3,305 people in the UK testing positive on Thursday.

However, it is not yet known whether this is just because of a number of local hotpots, or whether it is a UK-wide pattern.

It is also not yet known how successfully vaccines will break the link between hospitalisations and deaths, although figures from Public Health England (PHE) are promising, suggesting that 40,000 hospital admissions were prevented and over 13,000 lives have been saved by the vaccination programme so far.