England lockdown lifting could be ‘delayed until July 19’ with social distancing ending sooner

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The Prime Minister is said to be thinking of a four-week delay being added to UK coronavirus measures in England, as the Indian variant continued to push up infections.

Infection rates are now on the rise in every English region meaning proposals for the final stage of the Covid-19 roadmap to be paused from June 21 to July 19 are reportedly being discussed in Downing Street.

There is reportedly an announcement to be made on Monday, which could spell out a two-week review, meaning the remaining social distancing measures could be dropped on July 5.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK has increased by 8,125, a 30% increase from this time last week, reports MirrorOnline.

A further 17 deaths were today reported within 28 days of a positive Covid result.

Just a week ago, on June 4, the UK recorded 6,238 new Covid cases, which was a 49% increase in the infections reported the previous Friday.

The Office for National Statistics infection survey estimates 96,800 people had the virus in the week up to June 5.

This was up from 85,600 the week before. Testing last week suggested a rise in England but was more uncertain in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

The R Number is England could be as high as 1.4 according to the latest estimate by Sage.

Last week R was between 1 and 1.2 and this week is between 1.2 and 1.4.

The British Medical Association (BMA) tonight (Thursday) urged the Government to delay the planned June 21 easing of restrictions amid the rise in cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA Council, said: “The UK’s vaccination programme has been a tremendous success and this, together with the hard work and sacrifices of so many, and measures such as social distancing and mask wearing, has helped us come a long way in our fight against this terrible virus.

“However, case numbers are now rising rapidly, and we know that those who are unvaccinated or have had only one dose of the vaccine remain vulnerable to getting the virus.”

He added: “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.”

Jim McManus, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “Patience now will pay off in the long run.

“Covid is not going to disappear on the 21st of June and lifting all measures as early as the 21st risks reversing the significant progress we have made.

“The complete lifting of measures on the 21st of June not only risks an increase in cases and hospitalisation, but risks the introduction of new variants to the UK which will undermine our vaccination programme and derail our path back to normality.

“The alternatives of locking down or releasing all measures is a false one.”

The ONS estimates that in England one in every 560 people had the virus last week. This was one in 1,300 in Wales, one in 700 in Northern Ireland and one in 540 in Scotland.

Separate testing analysis by Public Health England showed nearly 30,000 more cases of the Indian coronavirus variant were confirmed in the UK last week.

It said 42,323 cases of the Delta variant that originated in India had been confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from last week.

Cases are estimated to be doubling every four and a half days in some regions.

It confirmed the Delta variant spreads 60% quicker than the Alpha or Kent strain.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “With numbers of Delta variant cases on the rise across the country, vaccination is our best defence.

“If you are eligible, we urge you to come forward and be vaccinated. Remember that two doses provide significantly more protection than a single dose.

“However, while vaccination reduces the risk of severe disease, it does not eliminate it.

“With data showing that Delta is significantly more transmissible than Alpha, it is just as important as ever to follow public health advice, which has not changed.”

Latest PHE data shows case rates rising in nearly all age groups in England and more than doubling among 20 to 29-year-olds.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed the importance of being “really careful” when asked about the possibility of a delay to the June 21 lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England.

“There has been some really hard won battles against this virus and we don’t want to squander those hard fought gains that we have made through the vaccination programme,” he told Times Radio Breakfast.

“In saying that, the virus hasn’t gone away, the virus will continue to attempt to mutate, to escape, to try and survive, and I think it’s really important that we are really careful.”

Mr Zahawi said that ministers were on track to meet a target of all over 50s being offered their second jab by June 21, appealing to those who had not had a first dose to come forward to be vaccinated.

“We are on track for offering all over 50s who have had the first jab their second jab by June 21,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“We have got very high levels of uptake, in the 90%, but we have got to make sure they get their second jab.

“Anyone who hasn’t had the jab, in that 5 or 6% who didn’t have their jab, please come forward and have your first jab.

“75% of the 12,500 people who were infected with the Delta variant, 75%, three quarters, hadn’t had a jab, so it’s really important.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary said: “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 added: “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. Now the British people look set to have to pay the price.”



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