Boris Johnson will plead with the nation to make “one last heave” to freedom as he announces a delay of up to four weeks in lifting lockdown restrictions in England.
A government source has told Sky News the prime minister will dash hopes that Freedom Day will come in two weeks’ time, on 21 June, and it will instead be postponed until 19 July.
“It is one last heave,” a senior source was quoted as saying after the PM met senior Cabinet ministers and his scientific advisers. “It is a straight race between the vaccine and the virus.”
Mr Johnson will blame the delay on a third wave of COVID-19 infections and say it will allow millions more people to be vaccinated and more to receive a second jab by the end of July.
As well as a delay in lifting restrictions, allowing scientists more time to monitor the new Delta variant, the PM is likely to announce a drive to accelerate the vaccination programme.
But the delay means that despite the success of the vaccination programme so far there will only be minor adjustments to the current lockdown rules in England.
Under the PM’s likely plan, which will dismay many Tory MPs and business leaders, that would mean:
- Pubs remain restricted to table service, despite the Euros football championships getting underway;
- The guidance that “everyone who can work from home must do so” remains in place’
- Theatres and other indoor venues will be restricted to 50 per cent capacity, despite a plea by Andrew Lloyd-Webber to re-open;
- Nightclubs will remain closed, but there is likely to be a reprieve for weddings, which at present can only be attended by 30 guests.
The four-week delay was agreed by a group of senior ministers -Mr Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Health Minister Matt Hancock – after a briefing by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.
Announcing his controversial decision later at a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson will argue that sticking to the rules now is worth it to avoid a future lockdown.
“The message has always been cautious but irreversible,” the senior Government source told The Daily Telegraph. “That has been our mantra throughout and that continues.
“It would be far worse to have uncertainty and go backwards. It is better to be cautious and have certainty.”
As a sop to Conservative MPs who will be furious about a four-week delay, Mr Johnson is expected to promise a review of the continuing restrictions after the first two weeks.
But the expected delay has also provoked a furious reaction from the trade body representing pubs, cafes restaurants, hotels and nightclubs.
“A full and final ending of restrictions is the only way to ensure that businesses in this sector can trade profitably,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality
“If Government decides it has to keep some restrictions in place after June 21, then it must prioritise those that do the least damage to business and commit to further supporting the sector.
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“Hospitality is desperate to get back to what it does best and can play a key role in the economic recovery of the UK – but only if it is given permission to trade and proper support.”
Leading a backlash from Conservative MPs, Mark Harper, chairman of the COVID Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, said he feared lockdown could be extended until at least the end of September if ministers attempt to wait until the whole population has been double-jabbed.
“We have a rapid rollout of effective vaccines and are heading into summer,” he tweeted. “If, even at this point, the Government won’t release restrictions, this points to restrictions in the autumn and winter, when respiratory diseases increase and the NHS is always under more pressure.
“This would be devastating for business confidence, people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.”
Headteacher to refuse Ofsted inspection after death of fellow principal Ruth Perry
A headteacher says she will refuse an Ofsted inspection following the death of fellow principal Ruth Perry.
Ms Perry, who was head at Caversham Primary School in Reading, killed herself in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest possible rating, her family said.
Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of John Rankin School in nearby Newbury, announced she would be “taking the stand” against Ofsted by preventing them from inspecting the school on Tuesday morning.
Tweeting her plans, Ms Cooper said: “I’ve just had the call. I’ve refused entry. This is an interesting phone call. Doing this for everyone for our school staff everywhere!”
She added: “We have to do this! I’m taking the stand!”
Earlier in the day, Ms Cooper urged “everyone” to come to the school on Tuesday to support her – but she later told people not to turn up.
She tweeted: “Please can people not come to school now in the morning. I have to protect our children, our staff and our community.”
Sky News understands Ofsted is in contact with the school to try to resolve the situation.
Calls to boycott Ofsted
At least two unions have called on Ofsted to pause inspections – the National Education Union (NEU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Ofsted should pause all its inspections and reflect upon the unmanageable and counter-productive stress they cause for school leaders, and the impact on leaders.
“That they are phoning leaders this week and initiating inspections speaks to the arrogance of Ofsted and their absolute lack of empathy.
“This is an agency that is completely out of touch, and which is making claims and judgements which are unreliable. This can’t go on.”
Caversham Primary had previously been rated outstanding but an Ofsted inspection in November 2022 found leadership and management issues related to “safeguarding”, causing the rating to plummet – every other category was deemed good.
Ms Perry’s sister, Julia Waters, said in a Facebook post that schools should “boycott Ofsted until a full and independent review has been conducted”.
It comes after she said in a BBC interview that her sibling had experienced the “worst day of her life” when inspectors had reviewed the school.
Ms Perry had been a former pupil of Caversham Primary and Ms Waters said the inspection destroyed 32 years of her vocation and “preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it anymore”.
She added: “Ruth took her own life on January 8, all during that process every time I spoke to her, she would talk about the countdown.
“I remember her clearly one day saying ’52 days and counting’, every day she had this weight on her shoulders hanging over her and she wasn’t officially allowed to talk to her family.
“I remember the very first day I saw her, rather than just speaking to her on the phone, a couple of days after the end of the Ofsted inspection, she came, she was an absolute shadow of her former self.”
School and staff find Ofsted inspections ‘very traumatic’
Geoff Barton of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “Many school and college leaders and their staff find inspections and Ofsted judgements very traumatic, and this is often damaging to their wellbeing.
“This case has brought matters to a head and something has to change. We will be discussing this with Ofsted as a matter of urgency.”
Matthew Purves, Ofsted regional director for the South East, said: “We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death. Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is a legal requirement for schools and nurseries to be inspected by Ofsted and they have a legal duty to carry out those inspections.
“Inspections are hugely important as they hold schools to account for their educational standards and parents greatly rely on the ratings to give them confidence in choosing the right school for their child.
“We offer our deep condolences to the family and friends of Ruth Perry following her tragic death and are continuing to provide support to Caversham Primary School at this difficult time.”
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Reece Rodger: Police search for missing man who vanished on camping trip
Police are “extremely concerned” over the disappearance of a man who went missing during a camping trip in Perthshire.
Reece Rodger, 28, was last seen in the Kinloch Rannoch area at around 11.30pm on Saturday night.
He was camping on the north shore of Loch Rannoch with friends, who believed he had gone to bed.
However, there was no trace of Mr Rodger on Sunday morning and he was reported missing, Police Scotland said.
Sergeant James Longden, of Pitlochry Police Station, said: “We are extremely concerned for his safety as he is not dressed for the cold weather and he is not familiar with the area.
“Searches and enquiries are ongoing to trace him as soon as possible to ensure that he is safe and well.”
Mr Rodger, from Fife, is around 6ft tall and of medium build with dark hair. When last seen he was wearing a black t-shirt, black jogging bottoms and wellington boots.
Sergeant Longden added: “I would urge anyone who has seen Reece, or who has any information on his whereabouts to contact police.
“I would also ask anyone living in the local area to please check their outbuildings or sheds in case he has taken shelter there.”
Rich polluting countries like UK must ‘fast forward’ net zero target by a decade, demands UN chief
In a controversial move, the United Nations chief is today calling on polluting developed countries like the UK to “fast forward” net zero targets by a decade to 2040, warning the “climate time bomb is ticking”.
It comes as the most comprehensive review yet of the state of climate change delivers a bleak picture of humanity’s failure to tackle it, warning the window to secure a “liveable and sustainable future” is “rapidly closing”.
But climate scientists have rallied to point out there are still grounds for hope.
Today’s report from the United Nations’ IPCC is the culmination of eight years of work by hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists, summarising six underlying reports.
The final sign-off by all governments was repeatedly pushed back amid a battle between rich and developing countries over emissions targets and financial aid to vulnerable nations.
The last similar report in 2014 paved the way for the ambitious Paris Agreement the following year.
The next of its kind won’t arrive until 2030, making this effectively the last collective warning and action plan from scientists while the 1.5°C warming is still in reach – though only just.
Key findings of the IPCC report
- Human activity has “unequivocally” warmed the planet by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.
- Emissions must fall 48% by 2030 – the first time such a bold target has been signed off in a global political document.
- Climate risks make things like pandemics or conflicts worse.
- Emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructure alone would blow the agreed 1.5°C warming target, unless they are captured via still risky technology.
- Global sea levels have already risen by 20cm on average.
- At least 3.3 billion people are “highly vulnerable” to impacts including “acute food insecurity” and water stress.
- Extreme heat is already killing people in every region.
- Vulnerable communities who have historically contributed the least are disproportionately affected.
‘Hope not despair’
In the year since the last report in this series, the world has suffered violent flooding in Pakistan, drought across the northern hemisphere and a hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa – all of which were made worse by climate change.
But amid the bleak warnings of lost jobs, homes, crops and lives, scientists insisted there were still grounds for hope.
IPCC chair Professor Hoesung Lee painted a picture of a “liveable sustainable future for all” – though only if we “act now.”
“We should feel considerable anxiety,” said Professor Emily Shuckburgh from Cambridge University, who recently co-authored a book on climate change with King Charles, but was not involved with this report.
“But hope, rather than despair,” she added, highlighting that the IPCC said it’s still possible to limit warming to the agreed safer threshold of 1.5°C.
UN’s latest climate warning channels Hollywood
The report says changes in how we eat, travel, heat our homes and use the land can all cut climate-heating gases, while reducing air pollution, improving health and boosting jobs.
And there is enough global capital to rapidly slash climate-heating pollution.
“Not despair, but not just hope, because there is a lot of work to do,” said Dr Friederike Otto, a member of the core writing team and senior lecturer at Imperial College London.
“But we don’t need any new magic invention that we have to do research on for the next 30 years or so. We have the knowledge… But we also need to implement this.”
‘The wolf is at the door’
But because the window to act is “rapidly closing,” the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will today attempt to heap pressure on rich nations to make up for lost time.
In 2018 the IPCC loudly warned of the “unprecedented scale of the challenge required to keep warming to 1.5°C”.
Five years later, that challenge is “even greater” due to a failure to cut emissions enough, it said.
“Leaders of developed countries must commit to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040,” Mr Guterres is expected to say shortly.
“This can be done,” he will add in an address to launch the report, which he calls “a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb”.
Mohamed Adow, director of thinktank Power Shift Africa, said it was “only fair that Guterres is setting more ambitious goals for wealthier countries who can make the transition more quickly and who have got rich off the back of burning fossil fuels”.
But the proposal may spark some backlash for apparently moving the goalposts. Countries are already struggling to meet the previously agreed target of net zero by 2050.
Asked about the proposed date change, a UK government spokesperson said: “Today’s report makes clear that nations around the world must work towards far more ambitious climate commitments.”
Britain is currently off track to get its emissions to net zero even by 2050, according to an independent assessment last week, and the recent budget was criticised for falling short on climate policies.
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “Forget distant tropical islands and future generations – we have already seen what 40°C summers and flash flooding look like here in the UK. The wolf is at the door.”
Fossil fuel battleground at COP28
The COP28 climate summit will take place in the United Arab Emirates in December.
The findings of the latest IPCC report are supposed to inform those climate negotiations in Dubai.
This year’s summit is seen as particularly important, taking a “global stocktake” of how countries have progressed since the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Observers pointed out that every government had signed off on the scientific conclusions released today, which include the call for a “substantial reduction in fossil fuel use”.
The necessary approval process by all nations is designed to ensure governments act on the contents.
Yet some countries resist that language in other forums such as the more political COP climate summits, with oil and gas states last year blocking a pledge to “phase down all fossil fuels” from the final agreement at COP27 in Egypt.
“By signing off the IPCC reports all governments, even those of high-emitting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Australia, the US and the UAE, acknowledge that climate change is a real and present danger,” said Richard Black from energy thinktank ECIU.
The UN will hope there is similar agreement in December – which needs to result in meaningful action.
Watch the Daily Climate Show at 3.30pm Monday to Friday, and The Climate Show with Tom Heap on Saturday and Sunday at 3.30pm and 7.30pm.
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The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.
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