Column by Cllr Ben Stokes, South Gloucestershire Council's cabinet member for adults and housing.

Following the Prime Minister’s latest announcement on Monday, I’d like to talk about the Government’s decision to delay the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions. The move to step four had been expected from 21 June. But some restrictions will now stay in place until Monday 19 July.

I know this will be disappointing news to many of you. But as England has yet to pass all four tests for proceeding with step four, I believe the delay is sensible. The Government’s decision is based on growing case numbers, the spread of the Delta variant, hospital admissions and the rate of transmission. Cases are rising in South Gloucestershire- there were 129 new cases in the week to last Tuesday (15 June).

A four-week delay gives the NHS crucial time to save lives by vaccinating millions more people. The vaccines are working, and the rollout programme has put us in a much better position than in previous waves. The Prime Minister is confident that we will not need to delay beyond 19 July.

The Government is monitoring the position daily, and if they conclude that the risk has diminished after two weeks, there may be a move to step four sooner.

It is so important that we all continue to follow the Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air guidance; that we continue regular testing, which is now easier than ever with our bright pink testing van visiting communities across the district, kit collection available at many pharmacies and the option of having kits delivered directly to your home; and of course, that you take up the vaccine when offered. The rule of six remains in place indoors, and up to 30 people are allowed to gather outdoors.

Some changes will still come in on 21 June. The number of people who can attend a wedding, civil partnership ceremony or reception and belief-based commemorative events will no longer be limited to 30 people. Instead, this will be determined by how many people a venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures.

Remember, Hands Face Space and fresh air. We’re on the right track – let’s keep going.