#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 17°C Thursday 29 July 2021
Advertisement

Johnson poised to delay UK Covid lockdown lifting to July as experts urge caution

Ministers are considering putting back the final easing of controls in England for four weeks as cases of the Delta variant surge.

Image: PA Images

Updated Jun 12th 2021, 2:00 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the UK is a matter of “serious, serious concern” as he prepares to put lockdown lifting on hold.

Johnson is expected to announce a delay of up to four weeks in the final easing of restrictions in England which had been due to take place on June 21 under the Government’s road map.

Speaking during the G7 summit in Cornwall, he insisted that no decisions had been taken ahead of a formal announcement on Monday.

However he made clear that there had been a deterioration in the situation, with a surge in cases of the Delta variant – first detected in India – since the start of the month.

“It’s clear that the Indian variant is more transmissible and it’s also true that the cases are going up, and that the levels of hospitalisation are going up,” he told Sky News.

“Now, we don’t know exactly to what extent that is going to feed through into extra mortality, but clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern.”

Ministers are considering putting back the relaxing of controls planned for 21 June for up to four weeks as they race to roll out the vaccine to younger age groups.

A final decision is expected to be taken on Sunday ahead of a formal announcement by Johnson at a news conference the following day.

It comes amid repeated warnings from some scientists that the rapid spread of the Delta variant first identified in India could lead to a “substantial” third wave if controls are lifted.

Doctors leaders in the British Medical Association (BMA) joined calls on Friday for the final lifting to be put on hold to enable millions more to gain the protection of the vaccine.

BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “With only 54.2% of the adult population currently fully vaccinated and many younger people not yet eligible, there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge of infections.

“It’s not just about the number of hospitalisations, but also the risk to the health of large numbers of younger people, who can suffer long-term symptoms affecting their lives and ability to work.”

However a delay – potentially to July 19 – will come as a bitter blow to many businesses, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sectors, which had been pinning their hopes on a full summer reopening to help recoup some of the losses of the past year.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the country was now paying the price for the refusal of ministers to heed the warnings of its own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

“Any delay in rolling back restrictions would be a huge blow for many families and businesses across the country. The fault for this lies squarely with Conservative ministers,” he said.

“Despite warnings from Labour, Sage and others they continued with a reckless border policy that allowed the Delta variant to reach the UK and spread.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

“Now the British people look set to have to pay the price.”

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Nervtag advisory group, said that it was a “disappointing setback” that the Delta variant first identified India seemed even more successful than the previous strains.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today: “This Delta variant seems to be about 60% more transmissible than that (the Alpha variant).

“So it really has gone up another gear and that means that we really have to double down and not lose all the advantage that has been gained by the massive effort that has been put in so far.”

Professor Tom Solomon, director of the Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool, said the country could not afford a “bad decision” on unlocking.

He told BBC Breakfast that while vaccines were having a “massive impact”, opening up could lead to hospitals being overwhelmed.

Prof Solomon added: “If you look at hospitalisations, they are doubling – the numbers are small but they are doubling approximately every seven days – and so if you then suddenly say we are going to open up completely we may end up with the hospitals overwhelmed again.

“So I think, unfortunately, we are just going to have to maybe give it another month until we have so many more people vaccinated.”

About the author:

Press Association

Read next:

COMMENTS (45)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel