LOCKDOWN’S total end on June 21 is “highly likely to be delayed” as cases of the Indian variant continue to soar across the UK, a Government adviser said.
Despite the success of the vaccine rollout, lockdown freedom day may have to be delayed as concerns grow over the Covid mutation.
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Testing and mass vaccinations have been rolled out in areas where the Indian variant is rifeCredit: LNP
An adviser involved in assessing the data told The Times: “If I was to call it now, I’d say step four is highly likely to be delayed.”
On June 21, legal limits on social contact are set to end, as well as an end to numerical limits on social gatherings, weddings, and funerals.
Nightclubs are also set to open on what is meant to be the official end date of lockdown in England.
But the government’s plan to lift all restrictions by June 21 is reportedly already “on a knife-edge” due to the rapid spread of the Indian variant.
Modelling by Warwick University suggests there will be no significant risk to the NHS if transmission is increased by less than 20 per cent compared with the existing Kent variant.
But if it rises above this, there will be an impact.
It comes amid the huge success of the UK’s rollout, which is believed to be responsible for recent low death tolls – despite rising cases of the Indian mutation.
Figures show that just two people given both jabs have died with the Indian variant.
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Of 5,599 people who went to A&E with severe symptoms from the strain, 177 had received both doses, while 3,400 had not yet had their first jab.
By May 25, 12 people had died of the variant. Eight were unvaccinated, two had a first dose, and two had both doses.
The number of cases of B1617.2 rose by 3,535 over the last week to 6,959 and “hospitalisations are rising” in some of the affected areas – with Bolton, Bedford and Blackburn with Darwen being the worst hit.
PHE said in a statement: “Hospital attendances and admissions are predominantly in unvaccinated individuals, highlighting how crucial it is that people in these areas come forward to receive the vaccination.”
Meanwhile, almost half of all adults will be fully vaccinated with both doses of their Covid jab by the end of next week.
Official data from Public Health England showed yesterday that 39,068,346 people have had their first shot and 24,892,416 have had the second in Britain’s tremendous vaccine rollout.
Back in March, Matt Hancock confirmed that half of the UK’s adult population had received a first dose of the Covid vaccine.
Cases of the Indian variant continue to grow across the UK – which could threaten June 21Credit: SWNS
But we’re now fast approaching the new milestone – with nearly 50 per cent of the adult population fully vaccinated after receiving two shots, up to 12 weeks apart.
With 24,892,416 people protected from the virus with their second jab, around two million more need to be dished out to reach the 50 per cent mark.
Despite the promising news that the vaccinations are largely successful against the mutation, there are fears the UK’s freedom day may not go ahead as planned on June 21.
This week, Matt Hancock warned “this isn’t over yet” as the PM cast fresh doubt on the final stage of his roadmap out of lockdown.
Professor Sharon Peacock of Cambridge University, who runs the UK variant monitoring programme, said: “It’s these periods of uncertainty, when we don’t quite know how serious it will be, which we find really difficult to deal with.
“It could be that it’s going to level out and we’ll get used to a new variant causing infection, but actually through vaccination, we manage to hold it at bay. We just don’t know.”
The Health Secretary told a No10 press conference that Britain was still in a race between “the virus and the vaccine” and it was “too early” to tell if the unlocking could take place as planned.
A “formal assessment” of data will take place next week – as medics grow increasingly gloomy about the new surge.