Could lockdown last until July? Why Covid restrictions in England may be extended to summer 2021

Boris Johnson has said that lockdown could ‘begin to ease’ by spring

The UK government has extended lockdown powers to local authorities in England until 17 July, meaning that councils in England will have the ability to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until then

The news came as Boris Johnson announced it is “too early to say when we'll be able to lift some of the restrictions", and told how schools would not return until at least early March.

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But will the UK still be in lockdown in the summer - and what does it mean for holidays? This is what we know so far.

Lockdown could remain in place until July, as vaccinations need to be delivered prior to lifting restrictions (Picture: Getty Images)

When will lockdown end?

On January 4, Boris Johnson announced that a national lockdown would be put in place across England until mid-February.

However, since then there have been several statements by the Prime Minister and Health Secretary which have alluded to an extended lockdown period.

On 25 January, Boris Johnson stated that the government may be “looking at the potential of relaxing some restrictions” prior to the mid-February deadline, but in large “people want to see us making sure we don't throw that away by having a premature relaxation and then another big surge of infection.”

He refused to state whether schools would definitely go back before Easter.

It has been reported that the UK government are preparing a three-point plan which would see schools return in March, non-essential shops opening in April and hospitality being kept under lockdown restrictions until May.

Meanwhile, Matt Hancock suggested there would be no lifting of restrictions until the vaccine programme had enabled all priority groups to receive their first dose.

On Sunday 24 January, he told journalist Andrew Marr that more than three quarters of over 80s were now vaccinated and that in some areas of the country, the spread of the virus was lowering.

Mr Hancock also stated: "We don't rule out further measures (of lockdown restrictions), but I'm not going to go into that."

In an interview with Sky’s Sophie Ridge earlier on Sunday, he also admitted that the country was “long, long, long way” from easing lockdown.

The Health Secretary has said he will not advise against easing lockdown until infection rates are significantly lower and vaccines have been delivered to the necessary priority groups.

What is the vaccination roll out schedule?

Matt Hancock has suggested lockdown could remain in place until all nine priority groups - as identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) - have received their first of two vaccination doses.

More than 4 million people have now been vaccinated in England, with 75 percent of over 80s receiving their first dose.

The over 70 age group are now beginning to be invited for their vaccination, as are clinically extremely vulnerable people and frontline healthcare workers.

By mid-February, all over 70s and clinically extremely vulnerable people will be vaccinated - including those who are housebound.

By mid-May, all over 50s will have received one of their two coronavirus jabs, with the second being administered to everyone by mid-July.

The second dose will be administered 12 weeks after the first, which Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI, told BBC Radio 4 was the right amount of time for maximum immunisation.

He said the longer duration between the first and second dose would provide “much better protection”, than a previously suggested six week interval.

The UK government has not suggested that the mid-July vaccination target and the increased powers to local authorities to continue lockdown until the same date is linked.

Instead, the government has insisted that the parliament voted on the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 extension as it was due to expire and therefore, was necessary to vote on once again.

The vote automatically extended the period whereby councils can impose lockdown measures on local businesses until 17 July 2021.

Will there be additional support for businesses?

Work and Pensions Secretary Teresa Coffey has told how an extension to the £20-a-week additional universal credit payment should be announced within the coming days.

On 25 January, she told BBC Breakfast: "I can assure you that we are in active consideration of the options on how to best support people during this time and I hope we will be able to come to a decision soon."

Self-Employed people will also be offered additional support for the months of February to April, through a fourth SEISS payment.

The details of this grant will not be announced until Rishi Sunak next delivers the budget on 3 March.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have also been offered support in the form of a one-off payment.

This will be paid in addition to any other support these businesses may already be receiving and will be capped at £9,000 per-property.

A £594 million discretionary fund has also been made available to support other businesses impacted by the lockdown, but who have not been forced to close.

It is thought that around 600,000 businesses across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will benefit from the grant, however devolved nations will decide how the money is divided up in their areas.

Any additional support which may be offered to businesses if lockdown is extended beyond Easter (4 April) is likely to be announced in or after the next budget (3 March).

Will children go back to school before Easter?

it has now been confirmed that schools will remain shut until at least 8 March, this is expected to be the first sign of restrictions being eased.

When pushed for a date when lockdown would begin to ease - with schools expected to be the first priority to return to normality - he said: “It is not going to be 2028, Andrew. It's one of those questions we don't know the answer to."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to announce later this week whether children will return to school after the mid-February break.

A Department for Education spokesman stated: “We continue to keep plans for the return to school under review and will inform schools, parents and pupils of the plans ahead of February half term.”

Teresa Coffey also told BBC Breakfast: “The important (thing) is that we follow the evidence, that the infection rates get back under control, and meanwhile remote learning is continuing – but I am conscious of the pressure this brings on families at this time.”

“The Prime Minister is as keen as possible to try and get back to face-to-face learning as quickly as possible.”

Parents should expect two weeks notice prior to children returning to school.