Why the government's changing tone offers clues about a possible delay to the June 21 reopening

Credit: PA

The June 21 deadline to ease all restrictions is fast approaching and on Monday we will know for sure what the government’s plan is.

In recent weeks there has definitely been a sizeable shift in the rhetoric from ministers.

When I spoke to several a couple of weeks ago I heard repeatedly the line that “there is nothing in the data that would suggest June 21 will not go ahead” - that has now changed significantly.

Watch Shehab's interview with vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi:

In my interview with vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi on Friday, he immediately mentioned that cases had been rising and said: “We have to keep a very close eye on hospitalisations.

"We have had some hard-fought battles against this virus, so let’s not squander those…and let’s take things really carefully.”

That change in tone tells you a lot - we already know that the Delta (Indian) variant is about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha (Kent) variant and that vaccines are less effective against it.

It is now the most dominant strain in the UK and since last week the number of Delta variant cases has increased by 70% to 42,323.

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So what are we expecting on Monday?

Well, given the change in rhetoric, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there is a slight delay to the easing of restrictions, with many scientists suggesting a few weeks to focus on doing more vaccinations might be a good idea.

Following a report in The Times, there are currently suggestions that the limit of attendees at weddings might be the one thing that is lifted on the 21st if other restrictions are not.

Despite the speculation about Monday’s announcement, Number 10 are still offering the same response - they will look at the data and scientific evidence and decide soon.

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