What are the other options if June 21 'Freedom Day' is cancelled?

Shoppers around Norwich Market shopping local and staying safe in masks.Picture by: Sonya Duncan

Will the end to coronavirus lockdown go ahead on June 21 as planned? - Credit: Sonya Duncan

It has widely been labelled as 'Freedom Day', when all remaining coronavirus restrictions will come to an end in England. 

But will they?

The symbolic milestone - scheduled for June 21 - is in doubt due to the growing prevalence of the virus' Delta variant, first seen in India. 

To many, the thought of yet another delay to life finally getting back to normal is almost unthinkable. 

To others, it is the kind of bad news we have simply come to expect. 

But just what are the alternatives available to Norfolk and Waveney, and the country as a whole? And what benefits or downsides might they bring?

King's Lynn town centre in lockdown. Picture: Ian Burt

A deserted street in King's Lynn during one of the national Covid lockdowns - Credit: Archant

Bring lockdown restrictions to an end 

That June 21 date has been fixed in our heads since the government set out its roadmap back in February. 

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If all goes to plan, we would have no restrictions on our daily lives for the first time in more than 14 months. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson outlined the government's roadmap out of lockdown in February - Credit: PA

- Pros

Having no lockdown rules would allow us to enjoy all the things we've missed throughout the pandemic. 

We're already appreciating a lot of them, such as meeting family indoors and going to the pub, but an end to social distancing should allow capacity crowds to return to nightclubs, sporting events, concerts and other mass gatherings.

There would also be no limits on attendance at weddings and funerals. 

Families and friends could gather indoors in groups of any size, while care home residents would be able to receive visits from more people. 

Hugging is now allowed in England. Pictured is Will Keatley, manager (left) and Colin Keatley, owner

Friends have enjoyed being able to meet in pubs, such as the Fat Cat in Norwich, since lockdown restrictions were eased - Credit: JESSICA COPPINS

- Cons

The government's primary concern when considering whether to follow the final step of its roadmap is the spread of the Delta variant. 

It is already causing an increasing number of cases and there are fears the situation would escalate with no restrictions in place.

That, in turn, may overwhelm the NHS if infections are serious, and there could be thousands more deaths.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, L

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said the government is "absolutely open" to delaying the lockdown lifting - Credit: PA

Delay to lockdown easing 

It remains unclear how long any delay to lockdown easing would last.

Mr Hancock said in an interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday that June 21 had been set out as a "not before" date for lifting restrictions and admitted the government was open to delaying it, should conditions not be met. 

And a number of national newspapers reported on Tuesday that a two-week delay is being actively considered

Shoppers out in force wearing masks in Norwich city centre on the first day it became mandatory for

Could Covid restrictions be here to stay beyond June 21? - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A final decision will be announced by the government on Monday, June 14

- Pros

Deferring the easing of lockdown would likely result in reduced spread of the Delta variant than there otherwise would have been, thus minimising cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The strain first identified in India is thought to be around 40pc more transmissible than the Kent variant. 

A delay would also allow more people locally across the country to receive a Covid vaccine. 

Audrey Burton, 97, receiving her COVID-19 vaccination at the Castle Quarter Vaccination Centre in No

Delaying 'Freedom Day' would allow more people to receive Covid vaccines before restrictions are eased - Credit: Danielle Booden

Norfolk and Waveney's health teams have been going at breakneck speed to protect the community, administering more than 125,000 jabs in the past two weeks alone

Almost 100,000 were second doses, meaning a rapidly increasing number of over-50s - at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19 - are receiving a greater level of protection. 

Moreover, 25 to 29-year-olds began being invited for their first doses this week.

The Castle Quarter Vaccination Centre in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

The large-scale Covid vaccination centre at Castle Quarter, Norwich - Credit: Danielle Booden

 

- Cons

A delay to what we hoped would spell the end of rules and guidelines would mean continued social distancing, as well as an extended wait for mass gatherings. 

Depending on the timescale, plans for weddings and music festivals could be in tatters

Latitude 2018.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Festivals such as Latitude would be in doubt if lockdown restrictions are extended - Credit: Nick Butcher

Tougher lockdown restrictions

If cases continue to rise, and hospitalisations and deaths begin to go up, a return to tougher rules could take place.

It should be made clear that this is a move not currently being considered by the government, and only would be if instances of serious illness increases significantly.

King's Lynn town centre in lockdown. Picture: Ian Burt

A quiet King's Lynn during the November 2020 lockdown - Credit: Archant

- Pros 

Similar to the above, imposing tougher lockdown measures again would likely diminish the spread of the Delta strain - and to a more effective extent. 

When the time is eventually deemed right to remove all restrictions, more people would have received a first or second Covid jab. 

- Cons 

Tightening things up would inevitably mean some businesses having to close again. 

Andy hopes restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to reopen after Covid-19 lockdown is lifted in t

Pubs would likely be among the first to close if Covid restrictions were toughened again - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hospitality firms - such as pubs and restaurants - would likely be the first victims, perhaps limiting them to outdoor seating only. 

Indoor recreational spaces like cinemas, theatres, museums and arcades may face a similar fate. 

These venues were the last to return properly, albeit with social distancing still in place, on May 17. 

Regional lockdowns 

Wider spread of the Delta variant in some areas of the country means this is not beyond the realms of possibility. 

Official Covid-19 Marshalls patrolling the streets of King's Lynn Town Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Could local lockdowns be reintroduced in the UK? - Credit: Archant

Already in locations where case numbers are higher, such as parts of the north west, people are being encouraged to meet outside rather then inside, keep two metres apart from other households and minimise travel in and out of affected areas. 

Last year, Norfolk and Waveney found itself - on various different occasions - in Tiers 1, 2 and 4 of the government's regional lockdown system.

- Pros

Like a nationwide shutdown, local restrictions have significant potential to limit the transmission of coronavirus in problem areas.

Furthermore, they prevent areas of the country where the disease is relatively under control from grinding to a halt. 

As it stands, Norfolk and Waveney is a prime example because its infection rate is still very low - just 10 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days up to June 3.

Norfolk's hospitals currently have just eight patients suffering with Covid, compared to a high of 758 on January 15. 

Further coronavirus deaths have been announced at the Queen Elizabeth, James Paget and Norfolk and N

Just eight patients are suffering with Covid at Norfolk's hospitals - Credit: Archant

- Cons 

While local lockdowns would largely protect the interests of Norfolk and Waveney, the area is far from a sovereign state and requires external support to function.

The sun is shining and we are already in the thick of tourism season. 

Countless businesses and attractions - especially those on the coast - are gearing up to welcome the tens of thousands of visitors who flock to East Anglia every year. 

The busy Cromer beach on the hottest day of the summer so far. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk's coastal communities are gearing up for a busy summer season - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

This is custom they need to survive and, if tourists from other counties are barred from travelling, the consequences could be dire.

Full-scale national lockdown

This is not a measure being considered by the government - and only would be if cases, hospitalisations and deaths spike sharply. 

In other words, the country would be in the thick of a third wave.

A man walks past a poster in the window of a Primark shop in Manchester, in the final week of a four

A nationwide lockdown is not currently being considered by the government - Credit: PA

- Pros

Arguably the most effective measure in terms of reducing the spread of coronavirus. 

By tightly restricting social contact, the chance of transmission is dramatically reduced.

Data from previous nationwide lockdowns backs this up, with infection rates beginning to tumble in the weeks after tight rules were introduced. 

Nurse Maria Alexiou preparing COVID vaccinations at the new mass vaccination centre at Connaught Hal

It is hoped the Covid vaccine rollout will prevent the need for any further lockdowns - Credit: Danielle Booden

- Cons

Once again, thousands of businesses would be ordered to cease operations and shut, potentially leading to economic disaster.

Employees would be told to work from home, and we would not be allowed to meet up with family at will.

Everyday freedoms such as enjoying a drink at the pub, going to the cinema or playing football with friends would be snatched away. 

That's without mentioning the issue of mental health. A survey carried out by this newspaper last year revealed 72pc of young had struggled during the crisis.

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