Covid: Growing worry over 'freedom day' of June 21 as PM says it's still not clear whether it can go ahead

Is June 21 lockdown easing in England still on track? ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen has the latest from the government

There is growing worry there may be a delay to the June 21 so-called "freedom day" as the prime minister again refused to confirm the easing would go ahead on Wednesday.

In his most downbeat statement yet about the reopening, Boris Johnson said: "What everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some cases hospitalisations are going up".

In his previous statement on the reopening last week, Mr Johnson said there was "nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead with Step 4" but he did not repeat that message on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives the latest on the June 21 reopening

Speaking from Carland Cross Windfarm in Newquay ahead of the G7 summit, Mr Johnson said: "The reason we’ve been doing the steps on the roadmap with five week intervals is really to give us time to look at all the data as it comes in to assess the state of the pandemic before we go forward to the next step. 

"So on Monday that four week period will be up and we’ll have a look at where we are.

"I think what everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some cases hospitalisations are going up and I think what we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage. 

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

"That’s what we’ll be looking at and there are arguments being made one way or the other but we’ll be driven by the data, we’ll be looking at that."

It is understood Chancellor Rishi Sunak was willing to accept a short delay to Step 4 of the road map to ending the lockdown amid a rise in cases.

A Whitehall source pointed towards the Treasury having gone “long” on emergency coronavirus support packages in the Budget to cover the possibility of a delay to the plans.

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The number of new Covid-19 cases reported across the UK is at the highest it has been since the end of February, jumping by 7,540 in the past 24 hours.

There have now been 4,535,754 confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK.

The figure reported in the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday is the highest since February 26 when 8,523 cases were reported - more than three months ago.

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