Wednesday, June 16

Doubts about England’s June 21 lockdown abate as delay plans are drawn up | Health policy

The planned removal of the remaining restrictions in England on June 21 has been called into question with reports that the government is studying contingency plans that include a two-week delay to allow more adults to be fully vaccinated.

The Telegraph and the Financial Times reported on Saturday that public officials were drawing up contingency plans to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions by two weeks, possibly until July 5.

A senior Whitehall source told the FT: “A variety of options are being worked out, including a delay in step 4 and the exchange of some measures with others.”

According to the Telegraph, a two-week delay to the final stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap will be accompanied by the submission of second doses of vaccination for those over 40.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviors, which advises the government, told the Press Association that it would be “foolish” and a “great risk” to end the restrictions this month.

“I think by the government’s own criteria, it’s pretty clear that it would be foolish to go ahead with the data that we have at the moment,” he said. “The risk would really be very great. Again, I emphasize that it is about data, not dates, and if you talk too much about dates, then you lock yourself in a corner and I think that is what the government has done. “

Data from the Office for National Statistics on Friday suggested that infection levels in England had risen by about 75% in a week, and 85,600 people are believed to have had Covid in the week ending May 29, or one of every 640 people, compared to 48,500 the previous week.

On Friday, the UK also recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day since the end of March, with 6,238. The estimated R-number for England is now 1.0 to 1.2, up from 1.0 to 1.1 last week.

But Chris Hopson, executive director of NHS Providers, raised hopes that the situation in hospitals was not as critical as in previous waves of the pandemic. He said the number of people hospitalized with the Delta variant, first detected in India, was not increasing “very significantly.”

He told BBC Breakfast that many of those hospitalized in Bolton, which has the highest number of Delta variant cases in England, were younger people and “much less at risk for very serious complications, less at risk of death, and so on. that means they had less demand for intensive care. “

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Friday it was too early to say what the decision would be regarding June 21, “but we will make sure people know in time.” He said the government “always expected cases to increase” as the blockade eased, and ministers were being “tough” on international travel rules to preserve the route out of the blockade in the UK by preventing them from being established. new variants.

The government angered the travel industry and conservative supporters when it decided to remove Portugal from the green list of free travel destinations.

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, the industry body that represents UK airlines, complained about a lack of transparency and consistency with the changes, which meant that British tourists in Portugal were struggling to get home. in time to avoid quarantine for 10 days.

“It has caused complete pandemonium because we don’t have the watch list that the government promised us,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

A government spokesman said no decision had been made on whether to ease all coronavirus restrictions on June 21.

“As the prime minister has stated, we cannot see anything in the data at this time to suggest that we should deviate from the roadmap,” he said. “We are continuing to analyze the latest scientific evidence and data and a decision on step 4 has not yet been made.”

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