Coronavirus: Social distancing advice toughened in Greater Manchester and Lancashire

By | June 9, 2021

First sign ‘Freedom Day’ will be delayed? Matt Hancock tells 4MILLION people in Greater Manchester and Lancashire to ‘minimise travel’, get tested and meet outdoors amid rise in Indian variant after Chris Whitty warned June 21 should be put back TWO WEEKS

  • North West is the country’s hotspot with outbreaks triggered by Indian ‘Delta’ variant taking off there 
  • Almost a third of UK’s cases yesterday were in the region around Manchester and Liverpool: 1,673 out of 5,683
  • The Health Secretary said surge testing will be done all over the area and insisted ‘We know this can work’

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced the 'enhanced package of support' for the North West and said: 'We know this approach can work'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announced the ‘enhanced package of support’ for the North West and said: ‘We know this approach can work’

Up to 4million people living in Greater Manchester and Lancashire were today urged not to leave the area and to avoid meeting people indoors to stop the spread of the Indian Covid variant, in the first sign that England’s ‘Freedom Day’ of June 21 will be pushed back.

With little under two weeks before No10’s planned final unlocking, the two hotspots in the North West are being sent ‘enhanced support’ in a last-ditch attempt to try to contain the ‘Delta’ strain. 

The Army will be sent in to help carry out surge testing to flush out cases of the virus, while NHS boards in the area will be given extra help to ensure vaccine uptake is as high as possible. Residents are also being asked to get tested twice a week.

Both places were added to the ‘coronavirus restrictions’ page of Government guidance under the heading ‘If you’re in an area where the new Covid-19 variant is spreading’, alongside other parts of the North West, Leicester, Hounslow in London and North Tyneside. They cover a total of 5.7million people – around 10 per cent of England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We know that this approach can work, we’ve seen it work in south London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases.’

Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham insisted the guidance was ‘not a lockdown’.  

But the move comes amid claims that No10’s top scientific advisers Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have spooked ministers into pushing back plans for June 21’s total unlocking, citing fears of a third wave.

Positive tests are surging in the UK with another 6,048 cases recorded today, up 91 per cent on last week, with another 13 deaths confirmed and 126 people admitted to hospital on Wednesday last week, the most recent figure. Another 419,000 vaccine doses were given out yesterday and 28million people have now had both jabs.

The pair reportedly gave a ‘fairly grim’ update on the situation to ministers, underlining that jabs can never provide 100 per cent protection and that one dose is less effective against the B.1.617.2 strain, which is significantly more transmissible and will inevitably cause more cases.

Whitehall sources said contingency plans are being drawn up for a possible delay of ‘between two weeks and a month’ to give scientists more time to consider data and allow the NHS to carry out more vaccinations. 

Mr Hancock also admitted that it is still likely to be another couple of weeks before advisers and ministers can fully understand how well the vaccines work against the now-dominant Delta strain. 

Boris Johnson is expected to confirm by next Monday at the latest whether the June 21 plan will go ahead and he is running the roadmap timetable down to the wire, so far refusing to give any indication of what he will do. His spokesman said today: ‘We need to take the time as built into the roadmap to consider the data.’

Despite calls from top scientists to push back the final relaxation of restrictions, anti-lockdown Tory MPs have urged the Prime Minister to stick to the original plan. Steve Baker, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said: ‘Britain must meet again, must be reunited in every sense, and we must start healing the broken bonds of the last year with social contact and normal human interaction.’

One despairing senior Tory MP told MailOnline that the government had ‘deliberately terrified’ the public at the start of the crisis to helps lockdown and were now ‘stuck in a doom loop’. They suggested the PM was unwilling to come out and admit that the disease ‘is now endemic but we are protected by vaccines’. 

Around four million people in the North West of England are now in the area with extra restrictions because of concerns about outbreaks of the Indian variant. Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn and Kirklees were already affected but now all of Lancashire and Greater Manchester have been added

Around four million people in the North West of England are now in the area with extra restrictions because of concerns about outbreaks of the Indian variant. Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn and Kirklees were already affected but now all of Lancashire and Greater Manchester have been added

New rules in the North West come amid claims that science chiefs Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Sir Patrick Vallance (right) have spooked No10 into pushing back plans for June 21's 'Freedom Day' total unlocking citing fears of a third wave

New rules in the North West come amid claims that science chiefs Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Sir Patrick Vallance (right) have spooked No10 into pushing back plans for June 21’s ‘Freedom Day’ total unlocking citing fears of a third wave

In the two weeks to May 29, the latest data available, the variant was dominant in 201 of 317 local authorities, or two thirds of England

In the two-week period to May 22 the variant was dominant in 102 areas

DARK RED/PURPLE = MORE INDIAN VARIANT CASES. Variant-tracking data from the Wellcome Sanger Institute shows that the now-dominant Indian ‘Delta’ strain is hotly focused in the North West of England, where the new restrictions are coming into place

Covid intensive care survival rates DOUBLE with new drugs and jabs – and just FIVE patients are being admitted each day compared to 330-plus at the peak of the pandemic

An average of just six people per day were admitted to intensive care with Covid in May – a total of 169 patients across the UK.

The number marks a huge turn of fortunes since the winter when there were nearly 10,000 people taken into during January, the worst month of the UK’s epidemic.

The massive vaccine rollout, which has now given two doses to at least half of adults, the effects of lockdown and the use of potentially life-saving treatments have managed to force the virus into submission in many parts of the country.

While coronavirus patients made up three quarters of all critically ill patients in the UK in January, they now account for just one in five. 

Department of Health data show 3,493 people were admitted to hospital in May and the 169 in ICU means just 4.8 per cent of people admitted to hospital ended up in intensive care. The number of patients in hospital overall – including non-ICU – is now just 2.5 per cent of what it was at the peak, with 932 compared to 39,249.

The South West, South East, East of England and Wales all had fewer than 10 people go into intensive care across the entire month – four, eight, six and two, respectively. 

The percentage of people admitted to hospital who die has tumbled from almost half to just one in five

The percentage of people admitted to hospital who die has tumbled from almost half to just one in five

Covid patients (red) made up three quarters of all ICU patients in January but this has tumbled to just one in five

Covid patients (red) made up three quarters of all ICU patients in January but this has tumbled to just one in five

The discovery of drugs that can save people from dying of Covid have dramatically boosted survival rates in ICU, too, with the death rate halving to around 20 per cent from 45 per cent in the first wave, The Telegraph reports.

Read More:  FDA authorizes Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for younger teens

Medicines such as the steroid dexamethasone and arthritis drug tocilizumab have both helped to cut the risk of death for hospital patients since they were proven to work in June and January.  

And early figures suggest the vaccines are keeping people out of the life support units. The average age of patients is falling and is now below 50, down from 60, showing older double-jabbed age groups are benefiting from protection.  

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The Department of Health today confirmed surge testing would be rolled out across Greater Manchester and Lancashire meaning anyone can get a test right away if they want one.

Specific areas included are: 

In Lancashire: Rossendale, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Preston, South Ribble, Chorley, Pendle, Fylde, Lancaster, West Lancashire, Wyre, Burnley and Blackburn with Darwen.

In Greater Manchester: Manchester, Salford, Bury, Rochdale, Wigan, Oldham, Stockport, Trafford, Tameside and Bolton. 

The same rules and advice were already in place in Blackburn, Bolton and Burnley, along with Kirklees, North Tyneside, Bedford, Leicester and the London borough of Hounslow. 

The Army will go door-to-door in some areas to hand out swab kits, and schoolchildren will be helped to get tested. 

Labs will test as many of the positives as possible to identify outbreaks of the Indian variant – although almost all cases are now expected to be caused by it. More than eight out of 10 cases in most of the affected areas have already been linked to the strain.

Vaccinations will also be boosted with extra capacity and supplies and appointments opened up to all adults, as happened unofficially in Bolton when it was the country’s hotspot.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I want to encourage everyone in Greater Manchester and Lancashire to get the tests on offer. We know that this approach can work – we have seen it work in South London and in Bolton in stopping a rise in the number of cases.

‘This is the next stage of tackling the pandemic in Greater Manchester and in Lancashire, and of course, it is vital that people in these areas as everywhere, come forward and get the jab as soon as they are eligible.’

Dr Jenny Harries, chief of the UK Health Security Agency, added: ‘This variant is now the dominant strain of this virus across the UK, with cases continuing to rise in some areas.

‘The most important thing that people in these areas can do is remain cautious, work from home if possible and remember to practise hands-face-space and fresh air.

‘Getting the vaccine gives a strong level of protection against this variant and I strongly recommend that everyone gets the jab when the NHS invites you – it will protect you and your loved ones.’

The public health director in Lancashire said coronavirus cases there were rising at a ‘worrying pace’ and that the council there had been pushing for extra help since the issue began in Burnley weeks ago.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said: ‘The Government has listened to our calls and has now agreed to provide Lancashire with enhanced support, which gives us more flexibility to fight this new wave of infections.

‘As such, asymptomatic PCR testing will be opened up to everyone in Lancashire.

‘Improving vaccination uptake is also going to be a crucial element in our efforts to contain this latest wave.

‘Anyone who is over 18, subject to eligibility, can book their jab now, over the coming weeks we will be offering the vaccine in more convenient locations.’  

There are fears the moves in the North West are the canary in the coal mine for the country as a whole as the Indian variant takes off, and they raise the risk that the end of lockdown will have to be delayed.

Moves are only changes to advice, however, and not yet enforced by law. 

Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, said: ‘This is guidance, it is advice to the public. It is not a lockdown. 

‘It is not a ban… this is not about telling people to cancel their plans, it is about asking them to be careful in setting any new ones, to minimise non-essential travel.’

In a departure from his normal stance as a thorn in the Government’s side, Mr Burnham admitted it was a ‘sensible approach given the rise in cases that we’ve seen’ and hailed a ‘joint approach’ taken between local councils and Whitehall.

Speaking about areas affected by a rise in the Delta variant, Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said: ‘It doesn’t mean that for people who have planned trips that they have to cancel their trips, or if they have planned family parties they have to cancel those. Go ahead.

‘This is guidance that says behave sensibly and that’s what we want people to do.’

On the national situation, a Government insider has cautioned: ‘No decisions have been taken but it is looking pretty challenging to go ahead on June 21 but I think people are leaning towards a short delay.

All over-50s could be fully vaccinated by July 1st – two weeks after ‘freedom day’ 

All over-50s in England could be fully protected against Covid by July 1 — nearly two weeks after 'freedom day on June 21 — but it will take until September for all adults to have had two jabs, MailOnline analysis can reveal

All over-50s in England could be fully protected against Covid by July 1 — nearly two weeks after ‘freedom day on June 21 — but it will take until September for all adults to have had two jabs, MailOnline analysis can reveal

All over-50s in England could be fully protected against Covid by July 1 — nearly two weeks after ‘freedom day on June 21 — but it will take until September for all adults to have had two jabs, MailOnline analysis can reveal.

The figures will boost calls for the Government to delay opening up all restrictions on June 21 for a fortnight in order to ensure the most vulnerable members of society have all had time for both doses to have had an effect.

And it comes amid claims that science chiefs Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have spooked No10 into pushing back plans for June 21’s ‘Freedom Day’ total unlocking citing fears of a third wave.

Experts say the vaccine forecast supports the case for a delay in reopening because one dose of vaccine can be as little as 30 per cent effective against the Indian coronavirus variant that is now dominant in the UK.

Cases are currently rising by around 40 per cent a week and new infections will be well above 15,000 a day by June 21, although it remains to be seen if the full vaccination of older Britons will keep hospital occupancy low.

But opponents of a postponement believe the vaccines have successfully broken the link between cases and hospitalisations, and argue the economic cost of a delay would be greater than that caused by a third wave this summer.

MailOnline analysis of official figures shows all people aged 50 and above could all of had their second vaccine dose by June 17, with a full immune response coming two weeks later.

But over-16s will not have received by their final inoculation until September 14, fueling concerns a surge in Covid infections caused by the Indian variant will result in a spike in deaths and hospitalisations among the unvaccinated. 

And experts today told MailOnline the figures suggest the Government would be right to delay by two weeks in order to ensure all over-50s have had their second dose and are protected.

Read More:  Walgreens and CVS responsible for majority of wasted coronavirus vaccines: Report

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‘It would be a nightmare for the sectors affected, but – having said it is all about data not dates – it is difficult to go ahead with a reopening when the data is pointing the wrong way.’

An insider told The Times on the briefing from Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick: ‘They emphasised again that the vaccine did not provide 100 per cent protection and there were real concerns about the transmissibility of the new variants.

‘I think you’re looking at a delay of between two weeks and a month. As long as we have fully opened things up by the school holidays then I don’t think the political damage will be too great.’  

Mr Eustice said ‘critical test’ ahead of the planned lifting of restrictions on June 21 will be whether those who are vaccinated are being infected.

He told Sky News: ‘What we’re not seeing at the moment is that growth in hospitalisations associated with (infections) and that’s because we know that if people have the vaccine, particularly once they’ve had the second jab of the vaccine, it actually does give them immunity to this new strain that’s around.’  

Despite big hopes that the vaccine will protect people from the new variant, Matt Hancock said it will still take weeks to find out for sure whether it does.

He said evidence that they worked was ‘absolutely critical’ for Britain to be able to stop living under threat of lockdown rules.

Speaking to MPs in the House of Commons the Health Secretary said the jabs are breaking through the previously ‘rock solid’ link between infections and hospital admissions and deaths, but exactly how well they work still isn’t for certain.

Asked how effectively the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines cut the risk of hospitalisation for the Delta variant Mr Hancock said: ‘There is not yet a conclusive figure.

‘I spoke to Dr Mary Ramsay, who runs this research at Public Health England, this morning and she told me that this figure is currently being worked on and this analysis [is] being done scientifically, and should be available in the forthcoming couple of weeks.

‘It’s obviously an absolutely critical figure and I’ll report it to the House [of Commons] as soon as we have it.’ 

The Government is planning to offer second doses to all the vaccine priority groups before lockdown comes to an end on June 21, and the fact that a single dose appears less effective against the new variant could mean ministers will want to leave time for this second dose to kick in – around two weeks – before letting go of social distancing laws, ITV political editor Robert Peston wrote in the Spectator

But Tory MP and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Times Radio he is ‘feeling quite optimistic that we are going to see the restrictions lifted’.

He said that ‘being double-jabbed works against this new variant, so, if Freedom Day ends up being put back a couple of weeks so we can get more people double-jabbed, I think it will only be a temporary setback. I think we are on the way to getting back to normal.’

Steve Baker MP, deputy chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, added: ‘As of today, according to announcements made by the Government, these [nine vaccine priority] groups should all have been offered a chance to have had a second dose…

‘If this brilliant milestone isn’t enough to convince ministers that we need to lift all remaining restrictions – especially social distancing requirements – on 21 June, nothing will ever get us out of this. 

‘Not only is this the last chance for all those industries that make life worth living like hospitality, live entertainment and tourism, it’s time for us to reconnect with family and friends and to regain our mental health. 

‘Being social is key to being well so by 21 June at the latest, Britain must meet again, must be reunited in every sense, and we must start healing the broken bonds of the last year with social contact and normal human interaction.’

Surge testing will now be offered to members of the public all over Greater Manchester and Lancashire in a bid to stamp out a rise in coronavirus cases. Pictured: A man has his temperature taken in the street outside a vaccine bus in Bolton yesterday

Surge testing will now be offered to members of the public all over Greater Manchester and Lancashire in a bid to stamp out a rise in coronavirus cases. Pictured: A man has his temperature taken in the street outside a vaccine bus in Bolton yesterday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is warning Boris Johnson he must consider the impact on the economy of extending restrictions into the summer

Business leaders Tory MPs warned any delay from June 21 would be devastating and could see thousands of pubs and restaurants go to the wall. Pictured: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

Business leaders Tory MPs warned any delay from June 21 would be devastating and could see thousands of pubs and restaurants go to the wall. Pictured: Chancellor Rishi Sunak (left) and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (right)

Covid deaths in England and Wales plunge to lowest level since BEFORE first lockdown last spring 

Weekly Covid deaths in England and Wales at the end of May fell to their lowest levels since before the pandemic took off last spring, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed today

Weekly Covid deaths in England and Wales at the end of May fell to their lowest levels since before the pandemic took off last spring, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed today

Weekly coronavirus deaths in England and Wales at the end of May fell to their lowest levels since before the first lockdown last spring, official data revealed today.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 54 virus deaths occurred in the week ending May 28 — the fewest since the week ending March 13, 2020, 10 days before Boris Johnson announced the first blanket shutdown.

Only three people died with Covid on the final day of the month — the seventh time in a fortnight fatalities were in single digits. For comparison, the daily death count stood at around 1,400 during the darkest spell of the second wave in January.

Death figures lag behind cases by around two weeks, so the spike in infections triggered by the Indian variant over the past few weeks has yet to translate into a huge up-tick in fatalities.

But experts believe the UK’s successful vaccine roll-out has broken the once impenetrable link between cases and serious illness, meaning fatalities and hospital admissions should remain low even in the face of rising infections — which top advisers warn is inevitable because of the easing of restrictions, coupled with the extra transmissibility of the Indian ‘Delta’ variant.

The ONS figures also showed Covid is now to blame for fewer than 1 per cent of deaths, with the virus mentioned on 95 out of 9,600 death certificates registered in the final week of May.

And data from Public Health Wales today also showed that no Covid deaths have been reported for the 13th day in a row in the country.

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British tourists yesterday scrambled to leave Portugal ahead of its move to the travel amber list this morning while the UK’s daily Covid cases rose to 5,683, with nearly three-quarters of local areas recording week-on-week increases – the highest proportion since January 6.

Mr Hancock yesterday told MPs the Indian or Delta variant was now thought to be at least 40 per cent more transmissible than the Kent or Alpha variant.

He said it now accounted for the ‘vast majority’ of new cases, but evidence from Bolton suggested vaccines were working.  

Of the 12,383 UK cases of the Indian variant, 126 have been admitted to hospital. Of these, just three had been fully vaccinated. 

Variant-tracking data from the Sanger Institute in London shows that, by the end of May, it was dominant in 201 authorities in England as infections are now rising in more parts of Britain than at any point since the peak of the second wave in early January.

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Surveillance data showed the mutant strain was responsible for more than half of infections in two thirds of England over the two weeks to May 29, after spreading from hotspots in the North West and London.

This was double the number the previous week, when it was dominant in 102 areas, and eight times more than at the start of May when it was the main strain in just 23 areas. 

The ‘Delta’ variant — dubbed B.1.617.2 — was also spotted in 272 of 317 council areas in England, or more than 85 per cent of the country.

It was behind 10,477 infections over the 14-day period. For comparison, the previously dominant Kent variant was blamed for just 3,171 infections in the same time, fewer than a third of those blamed on the Indian variant.  

Cambridge microbiologist Professor Ravi Gupta, who sits on a sub-group of the Sage committee, said ‘a few more weeks rather than months’ may be needed before a full exit from lockdown.

Former chief scientist Professor David King also called for a delay, saying there was ‘evidence of another wave appearing’.

But former health minister Steve Brine warned there was a growing perception that ministers were ‘writing Covid a blank cheque and just continually delaying’.

Kate Nicholls, of industry group UK Hospitality, said a delay to the unlocking would result in ‘business failures and insolvencies very quickly’. 

She warned: ‘You are going to have long Covid for the economy if you are not very careful.’

The PM’s spokesman said data on hospital cases over the next few days would be ‘crucial’ to the final decision. 

Ministers have considered a compromise plan, which would see some restrictions lifted on June 21 while others remain in place.

But multiple sources said the Government was more likely to delay the whole package than try to split it up. 

The devastating cost of diverting from the roadmap

Analysis by Mario Ledwith

When it was unveiled in February, the PM’s roadmap out of lockdown promised to ‘restore freedoms sustainably, equitably and as quickly as possible’.

Announcing the plan, Boris Johnson said: ‘We cannot persist indefinitely with restrictions that debilitate our economy, our physical and mental wellbeing, and the life-chances of our children.’

The roadmap set out a plan to end legal limits on social contact by June 21.

The ultimate decision will be based on four tests, including the success of the vaccine rollout, current pressure on the NHS and the risk posed by new variants.

As ministers inch closer to making the call on whether to stick to the roadmap, we look at what rules could finally be lifted – and the impact if they are not.

ONE-METRE RULE

If the 'one-metre rule' advice remains in place, there will still be significant impacts on everyday life

If the ‘one-metre rule’ advice remains in place, there will still be significant impacts on everyday life

Only last week, Mr Johnson said there was a ‘good chance’ the Government could ditch its ‘one-metre plus’ social distancing guidance.

If the advice remains in place, there will still be significant impacts on everyday life.

The advice would make it difficult for the Government to overturn its guidance that everyone who can work from home must do so, while posing a further obstacle to the retail and hospitality sectors. 

It could also prevent an end to enforced table service at pubs and bars. Kate Nicholls, of UK Hospitality, said lifting the one-metre rule is ‘vital’ for firms to operate viably.

LIMITS ON WEDDINGS

Failure to lift restrictions will mean that those getting married will have to keep the number of attendees at the current limit of 30.

Couples risk losing tens of thousands of pounds, while businesses already on the brink have warned that failure to allow big ceremonies to go ahead will be disastrous.

Couples risk losing tens of thousands of pounds, while businesses already on the brink have warned that failure to allow big ceremonies to go ahead will be disastrous

Couples risk losing tens of thousands of pounds, while businesses already on the brink have warned that failure to allow big ceremonies to go ahead will be disastrous

Industry body the UK Weddings Taskforce warned the wedding sector faces estimated revenue losses of more than £1.3billion.

RULE OF SIX (INSIDE)

Continuing to limit indoor gatherings to six people or two households would curtail sections of the hospitality sector reliant on large- scale events.

It would also prove an impediment to larger families who have spent months waiting for the opportunity to meet indoors, rather than in gardens.

Continuing to limit indoor gatherings to six people or two households would curtail sections of the hospitality sector reliant on large- scale events

Continuing to limit indoor gatherings to six people or two households would curtail sections of the hospitality sector reliant on large- scale events

Ministers have not dismissed the possibility of ditching the rule of six while keeping social distancing guidance in place, due to the higher risk of transmission inside.

UK Hospitality has predicted that a two-week delay to easing restrictions could cost the industry £1.5billion. Pub retailer Greene King has warned it would lose £1million during every England football game that takes place without the easing of the rules.

RULE OF 30 (OUTSIDE)

The hospitality sector is once again likely to bear the brunt of the refusal to scrap the 30-person cap on out- door gatherings.

The improving summer weather and lifting of restrictions was expected to coincide with a wave of large-scale gatherings that may now have to be cancelled.

NIGHTCLUBS

Already on their knees after being hit hardest of all by Covid restrictions, an extended ban could be a fatal blow for the country’s nightclubs and indoor music venues.

Failure to give the green light to capacity crowds could prove a hammer blow to the music festival sector, which is worth £1.1billion. Pictured: Dua Lipa performs at the 2021 BRIT Awards

Failure to give the green light to capacity crowds could prove a hammer blow to the music festival sector, which is worth £1.1billion. Pictured: Dua Lipa performs at the 2021 BRIT Awards

A recent report found that clubs, which have been closed for 15 months, have already made 51 per cent of staff redundant.

The Night Time Industries Association, which represents nightclubs and other venues, has warned MPs that venues are facing an estimated £2.5billion rent crisis.

LARGE EVENTS

Failure to give the green light to capacity crowds could prove a hammer blow to the music festival sector, which is worth £1.1billion.

It is also likely to stand in the way of the UK’s summer of sport, with the European Football Championship the most high-profile victim. 

The tournament’s semi-finals and final are being played at Wembley and limits could dash hopes of seeing the stadium filled with cheering England fans.

Just 15 people out of 60,000 tested positive for Covid at nine trial events staged by the Government, including the FA Cup Final and Brit Awards last month.

Ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have said that restrictions over wearing masks could be kept after freedom day

Ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have said that restrictions over wearing masks could be kept after freedom day

FACE MASKS

At present, you can be fined up to £200 for failing to wear a mask in indoor areas such as shops or on public transport, unless they are exempt. 

Last month, the Government dropped a requirement for schoolchildren to wear masks amid concerns they were affecting learning.

But ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, have said that restrictions over wearing masks could be kept after freedom day.

Surveys have shown people are largely in favour of retaining indoor mask-wearing, while studies show they can be successful at reducing transmission when combined with other measures.

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