Wednesday, 16 Jun 2021

Could June 21 lockdown easing be delayed until everyone has had two doses of the vaccine?

UK lockdown: Expert calls for delay to end of restrictions

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was “absolutely open” to delaying the end of lockdown, and that June 21 was a “not before” date that would depend on the data. He said the Delta coronavirus variant was about 40 times more transmissible than the Alpha strain, but added that hospitalisations were “broadly flat” which means the vaccine is working.

Might we have to wait for everyone to be vaccinated?

Research has shown that while a single dose of the vaccine does offer some protection against severe illness, having had both doses offers is far safer.

Mr Hancock urged people to get their second jab, saying: “The best scientific advice I have at this stage, is that after one jab it’s not quite as effective against the new Delta variant, but after both jabs it is.”

Dr Julian Tang, a consultant virologist at the University of Leicester, said he thinks the end of lockdown should be delayed until at least 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

He said: “If you open up completely you’re going to see bigger surges of what we see now – despite increased vaccinations and surge testing, cases are still rising in hotspots which must mean it’s rising elsewhere.”

“If you open everything up, you’ll see a bigger surge, then the government will panic and shut everything down again.

“From a purely virological point of view, you want to know what we’re doing now is going to control the virus down the line.

“At some point, you’ll have to open up but that should happen when at least 70 percent of the population have had two doses.

Dr Tang said that it is an inevitability that the virus will still remain in the population regardless of vaccinations.

He said: “The government will have to decide what level of virus we can live with.

“Immunologists who dream of eradicating this virus are just dreaming – respiratory viruses are seasonal and none have been eradicated.”

A final decision on whether to ease England’s lockdown further will be made on 14 June.

Asked whether some measures, such as the wearing face coverings and working from home, might stay beyond June, Mr Hancock said: “I wouldn’t rule that out.”

Asked whether lockdown easing could be delayed if the data on the Delta variant appeared “bad,” Mr Hancock said the government was “absolutely open to doing that if that’s what needs to happen”.

He said the “roadmap was set up to take these changes into account”.

Mr Hancock added that while new infections have “risen a little”, the number of people admitted to hospital with the Delta variant was “broadly flat”.

He said the majority of patients in hospital appeared to be those who have not had a vaccine, with “only a very small minority” of patients fully vaccinated.

Those who had been double vaccinated appeared to be less seriously ill, he said.

This showed vaccines were working, he said, and that the link between infection and hospitalisation had been “severed but not broken”.

On Saturday, Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said the number of people in hospital with the Delta variant was rising but not “very significantly”.

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