A scientist advising the government is asking that the June 21 plan to lift the lockdown be delayed by “a few weeks” due to the growing threat of the Indian strain of coronavirus B1617.2.
Professor Ravi Gupta, who sits on the Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats (Nervtag), says the UK is still in a vulnerable position, despite the ongoing vaccination program.
The non-lockdown roadmap that allows the pandemic restrictions to be lifted on June 21 was drafted in February, months before the Indian variant became a concern. Professor Gupta told Good Morning Britain he feared June 21 was too early “to put the vaccine directly against the virus”.
Prof Gupta argued that moving back the June 21 target date could have a significant impact on tackling the pandemic, adding that it should be made clear to the public that this would be a temporary measure based on recent developments.
More than 39 million people received a first shot and an additional 25.3 million received both doses.
Asked whether a three week delay from the June 21 target would be enough while the British were getting vaccinated at a rate of four million a week, Prof Gupta said: “Even a month’s delay could have a big impact on the end result of this.
“As long as it’s clear to people it’s not an unlimited extension of the lockdown but actually just a reassessment, that would be realistic.
“Because we didn’t anticipate the 617.2 variant when we were building the initial roadmap, and actually things went really well, except we have this new variant to complicate things.
“We have to remember that this is a virus that adapts, and in the face of vaccines it will eventually start to mutate to avoid them even more, and then we could be in an even more precarious situation after that.
Professor Gupta said the UK was “really well placed” on its vaccination program, but caution remained crucial.
“The bottom line here is that we’re almost there,” he said.
“The problem is that we don’t want to put the vaccine directly against the virus when the vaccine coverage is not high enough; it’s not in young people, it’s not in school children, and this is where the virus can potentially start to circulate.
“We still have a lot of vulnerable people in the community who have not responded to the vaccine.”
Professor Gupta said it was concerning that hospital admissions were set to increase following the easing of restrictions last month, at a time when hospitals faced numerous backlogs of procedures and of treatments delayed due to the pandemic.
“If we’re fully unlocked on June 21, we have a situation where over the next few weeks there will be a lot of mixing, there will be rallies, because people have been waiting to do these things for a long time,” he said. .
“So we’re going to have too much of a mix, especially in the younger groups, and that’s going to lead to hospitalizations … a lot, at a time when the NHS is trying to distance itself in hospitals, so it takes time to get people moving there. things. , and the added pressure of having cases of Covid, some of which will of course be serious, is going to have an effect on morale and clinical care for everyone.
Westminster said it would make a final decision on Monday June 14 on whether to continue lifting the June 21 lockdown as scheduled.
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both said they had seen nothing in the data available to convince them to delay the roadmap, although they did not Nor have they given assurances that the June 21 plans will go as planned, Mr Johnson said “we may have to wait” before a decision is made.
Former government chief science adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport said more data was needed before a final decision could be made on easing restrictions on June 21.
“We have to substitute speculation for scientific data, it’s the truth, as everyone has been saying in the last few days, the situation is very delicately balanced with three sets of moving parts,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“First, we have a new variant that is more transmissible, there’s no question about it, although we don’t know exactly how much more transmissible.
“Second, there has been a change in behavior following the easing of measures on May 17, and the effects will just start to be felt.
“And third, we have a vaccination program that is very effective, but with a lot of people who still need both their second dose of the vaccine and the vaccination from scratch.
“I fear that weeks before the Prime Minister has to make the difficult decision, it will be necessary to bring in the data.”
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This notice was published: 2021-06-01 09:09:10