Johnson says “sensible to wait a little longer” as the Delta variant fuels a new wave of infections.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the next planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will be delayed for four weeks, until July 19, as a result of the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant.
“Based on the evidence that I can see at this time, I am sure that we will not need more than four weeks and we will not have to go beyond July 19,” Johnson said at a news conference announcing the delay of the planned June 21. . reopening date.
The UK prime minister said it was “sensible to wait a little longer” and that “now is the time to let go of the accelerator.”
According to the government’s plan to get out of the confinement, all restrictions on social contact were lifted next Monday. Many companies, particularly hospitality and entertainment companies, expressed disappointment before the official announcement.
The additional time would be used to speed up Britain’s vaccination program, which is already one of the most advanced in the world, by shortening the recommended time between doses for those over 40 to eight weeks from 12 weeks.
“By Monday, July 19, our goal is to have beaten two-thirds of the adult population,” Johnson said at the news conference.
The situation would be reviewed on June 28, which could allow for the reopening to be advanced, although Johnson’s spokesman said it was considered unlikely.
In recent weeks, there has been a rapid growth of new cases caused by the Delta variant, first discovered in India. Health officials believe it is 60 percent more transmissible than the previous dominant strain, and scientists have warned that it could trigger a third wave of infections.
A study published Monday showed that the Delta variant doubles the risk of hospitalization, but two doses of the vaccine still provide strong protection.
On Monday, Britain recorded 7,742 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths. Johnson said the UK was seeing an increase in cases of around 64 per cent per week and the number of people in intensive care in hospitals was increasing.
“By being cautious we now have the opportunity in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more,” Johnson said.
The UK has officially reported nearly 4.5 million cases and more than 128,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the seventh highest number globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Monday’s decision was based on a scientific model that showed that if the reopening went according to plan, in some scenarios hospitalizations could coincide with those in March last year, when ministers feared the health system could be overwhelmed. .
Unlike March 2020, the increase in hospitalizations is likely to occur among younger people who require shorter treatment and are at lower risk of dying.