The British government fended off calls Tuesday to provide more financial support to businesses and workers who will suffer financially from its decision to delay the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England by four weeks to July 19.
Although many coronavirus restrictions have been eased in recent weeks, which has allowed large parts of the U.K. economy to reopen, a number of businesses, particularly those in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, have not been able to do so because it was not financially viable. After months of planning, those businesses had been preparing to reopen on June 21, the date the government had earmarked for the possible lifting of restrictions on social contact.
However, the recent spike in new infections as a result of the more contagious delta variant that was first identified in India has upended that plan.
“Now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday when announcing the delay.
The <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> Dashboard has been updated: <a href=”https://t.co/XhspoyTG79″>https://t.co/XhspoyTG79</a><br><br>On 14 June, 7,742 new cases and 3 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported across the UK.<br><br>41,698,429 people have now received the first dose of a <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/vaccine?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#vaccine</a>. 29,973,779 have received a 2nd dose. <a href=”https://t.co/49MV9XrPFn”>pic.twitter.com/49MV9XrPFn</a>
Following the announcement, unions joined with business leaders to urge the government to compensate those affected by the delay, particularly those in the arts and hospitality industries.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the delay means “many workers and businesses will need more help.” She said the government should delay asking businesses to make contributions beginning in July to the salary support scheme it has had since March 2020.
And the Confederation of British Industry urged the government to hold back on the planned tapering of tax relief for businesses and extend the commercial rent moratorium for the sectors most impacted. It also said a solution must be found for the hard-pressed international travel sector.
“We must acknowledge the pain felt by businesses in hospitality, leisure and live events,” the CBI’s director-general Tony Danker said. “At best, they’re operating with reduced capacity … and at worst, some aren’t open at all.”
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, a close ally to Johnson, appeared to indicate that no more financial help will be forthcoming, saying that the government’s support programs were predicated on the assumption that there could be delays in the road map out of lockdown.
Gove told Sky News the “worst thing for business” would have been to allow them to open up again and then having to reimpose restrictions. He laid out his hope that the government won’t have to delay reopening again.
“It would require an unprecedented and remarkable alteration in the progress of the disease,” he said.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 1,403,285 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 16,270 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,944. More than 29.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In Atlantic Canada on Monday, health officials reported 13 new cases of COVID-19, including:
- Eight new cases in Nova Scotia, which is moving to the next stage of its reopening plan on Wednesday.
- Four new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, where officials announced Monday that 71 per cent of the eligible population had received first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- One new case in New Brunswick, which is still just short of its goal of having first doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered to 75 per cent of its eligible residents.
There were no new cases of COVID-19 reported in Prince Edward Island, which had just four active cases as of Monday.
In Quebec, where major cities saw further restrictions lifted on Monday, health officials reported one additional death and 123 new cases of COVID-19.
Ontario, meanwhile, saw four additional deaths reported Monday and 447 new cases of COVID-19.
In the Prairie provinces on Monday, Manitoba reported two additional deaths and 124 new cases of COVID-19, while Saskatchewan saw one additional death and 55 new cases. Health officials in Alberta reported one death and 115 new cases.
In Yukon, the acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Catherine Elliott, reported an additional COVID-19 death, the territory’s third since the outset of the pandemic.
“The Whitehorse resident was linked to a previous case and was unvaccinated,” said a statement announcing the death and additional cases in both residents and non-residents.
In British Columbia, health restrictions will be eased on indoor gatherings, group activities and travel within British Columbia on Tuesday. Premier John Horgan said COVID-19 immunization rates are rising and case counts are falling. The province on Monday reported four additional deaths and 277 new cases since Friday.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 176.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.8 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University database.
In Europe, Germany’s health minister says the country has issued nearly five million vaccination certificates that are designed to be part of a European Union-wide digital pass system. Germany launched the rollout of the certificates late last week. Users can download proof of their coronavirus vaccination status onto a smartphone app.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India reported on Tuesday 60,471 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, the lowest since March 31.
Africa will get priority treatment for the Group of Seven’s pledged 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, a senior World Health Organization adviser said on Monday.
In the Middle East, Israel is no longer requiring masks indoors, lifting one of its last coronavirus restrictions following a highly successful vaccination campaign. The restriction was lifted on Tuesday, though people will still be required to wear masks on airplanes and on their way to quarantine. Unvaccinated individuals must wear masks in nursing homes and other long-term health facilities.
Israel has vaccinated around 85 per cent of its adult population, allowing schools and businesses to fully reopen. There are only a few-dozen active patients in the country of more than nine million.
In the Americas, Chilean health authorities said they would extend a COVID-19 emergency through September to allow the government to impose restrictions.
Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has extended the validity of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, prolonging its shelf life from three months to 4.5 months.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET