June 21 has been touted by the UK government since February as the final stage of the “roadmap” to ending all Covid social restrictions. The final stage of a four-step roadmap will see any remaining restrictions removed, crucially including the full reopening of nightclubs and a removal of any restrictions on mass gatherings such as festivals. The first three stages went as planned, with British society now largely back to normal, but with a steady increase in the “Delta” (formally identified as the “Indian variant” due to its alleged origin) the final step has now been pushed back by four weeks to July 19th, however according to a government announcement this evening, there is a possibility that the UK government may still push the date forward after a review in two weeks time.
The news is obviously concerning for the dance music industry, with the live sector being a key part of the scene and summer being a particularly important time for club events and festivals. While most festivals have long since rescheduled until much later in the summer, many are now understandably concerned about whether restrictions could be pushed further back, and whether even under the current date they will have enough time to plan and commit to going ahead.
June 21 was always a “not before” date, with the UK government and their scientific advisors always making clear that “data not dates” would be key to ending restrictions. However despite a current boom in cases suggesting a possible third-wave may be underway in the UK, the key metric for any lockdown or delay in removing restrictions is always pressure on healthcare services, and in this instance the number of people in hospital. The good news on this front is while hospitalisations are rising, they are rising at a rate that is much slower than in previous waves, thanks to the majority of those most at risk being fully vaccinated. Almost 80% of adults have now had at least one jab, which still offers a good degree of protection, and with the vaccination program still continuing at a massive pace, the situation should only get better.
The UK government has however come under fire as a result of the news, with industry organisations such as the NTIA, and an increasing number of the governments own back-bench MPs, pointing out the potentially catastrophic effects of further delays on the industry. Many venues have now been closed for over 14 months, with many unlikely to survive even as things stand. The NTIA have now announced potential legal action against the government in order to try and stop delays in opening. To date, there has been no news about further cancellation or delays of major events.
Image Credit: Jake Davis for Printworks London