The British government has extended the lockdown powers of local officials in England until mid-July, the Telegraph has reported. A Tory MP told the paper the change was “little noticed” at the time.
The regulation that allows local authorities to close pubs, restaurants, shops, and public spaces was due to expire last week, but it was extended earlier this month until July 17, according to a report in the Telegraph.
A Department of Health source told the paper that MPs had voted for the extension. “As we are currently in a national lockdown it was necessary to renew the regulations,” the source said, which means that the rules have been “automatically extended for another six months.”
The source added: “However, these measures are still subject to the statutory review point.”
Mark Harper, who leads the Coronavirus Recovery Group of Tory MPs, told the paper the extension of the lockdown until July “will be of great concern to those worried about their jobs and businesses.”
“Given the limited time allowed for debate, this change in the law was little noticed,” Harper said.
Tory MP Charles Walker said he hoped “this summer date is only provisional, with a spring opening being the preferred option.”
England went into its third lockdown shortly after New Year, as authorities were struggling to contain a rise in Covid-19 infections and were alarmed by the more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week it was “too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions.”
The PM explained the government is currently “looking” at February 15, the deadline set to vaccinate 15 million people from high-priority and vulnerable groups. Having this date in mind, officials including Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed hope that some restrictions could be lifted by March.
Johnson, meanwhile, reiterated that the government is fully focused on protecting the NHS from getting overwhelmed due to the influx of Covid-19 patients. He said it will be crucial in the “tough few weeks ahead.”
In a similar vein, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News on Sunday that the pressure on the NHS could be seen “every day.”
“There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down, but we are a long, long, long way from [them] being low enough, because the case rate was incredibly high,” he said.
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