May 14, 2021
Boris Johnson’s plan to largely remove all Coronavirus restrictions in England on June 21 could be derailed by the surge in cases of the Indian variant.What is supposed to happen on June 21?England is currently in stage two of the prime minister’s four stage roadmap for unlocking the country.
Will Lockdown Be Extended? What The India Variant Could Mean For Covid Rules
It is a process the government has said it wants to be “irreversible”.
Stage three, which will see people be allowed to meet up inside, indoor hospitality reopen and international travel return, is due to go ahead on May 17.
Stage four, due on June 21, is due to see all legal limits on social contact lifted. In effect it is expected to mark the end of lockdown.But four ‘tests’ have to be metIn order for England to advance through the stages, the government has set four tests for itself.The vaccine deployment programme continues successfullyEvidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinatedInfection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHSThe assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of the virusIt is number four, the risk from new variants, that has put the June 21 date in doubt.The number of Covid cases Data from Public Health England (PHE) has shown a rise in cases from 520 to 1,313 this week in the UK.
The agency said cases were “rising in the community” and it was assessing the impact and severity of the variant.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, told LBC on Friday morning the May 17 reopening was “is still on”.
But when pressed on whether the plans for June 21 could be paused, he said: “The way we don’t have to do that is by everybody doing their bit.”What action is being taken?One response being considered is bringing forward the date for a second dose of vaccine for eligible groups to increase protection.
The government is also looking at ways to flex the rollout of vaccines in the worst hit areas such as the North West, including vaccinating everyone in multi-generational households from 18-year-olds to grandparents.
More vaccine doses have been sent to Bolton, which has a particularly high rate of the Indian variant, while 800,000 PCR tests have been sent to 15 separate areas of the England, including parts of London and Merseyside.
There is no current evidence that vaccines do not work against the Indian variant, which is thought to be at least as transmissible as the Kent variant of the virus.What do the experts say?Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday the “big question” was how many of people who are getting the Indian variant will end up requiring hospitalisation.
“And at the moment the hospitalisation rate doesn’t seem to be increasing yet, although if this becomes much more common we’ll almost certainly see some increase, so I think it’s certainly a concern,” he said.
“I think the step four is in doubt in June now, but we really need to see what impact it has on severe disease before we can really be certain.”
Asked why June 21 was in doubt, he added: “Well, because if the epidemic continues to increase, if the Indian variant of the epidemic continues to increase at the same rate as it has over recent weeks, we’re going to have a huge number of cases by June.
“The issue though is that because it seems to be spreading in unvaccinated younger people at the moment and not yet that much more active in older people, maybe we’ll be able to weather it and we’ll still be able to have the step four in June.
“But if that increases cases in elderly and starts to increase hospitalisations, and puts pressure on the NHS again then I think step four would be in doubt.”Related...Vaccinations Could Be Targeted On Areas With Spike In Covid CasesPeople Aged 38 To 39 Can 'Book Covid Vaccines From Thursday'
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