The lifting of the final covid-19 restrictions in England, scheduled for 21 June, has been delayed by four weeks (until 19 July). The Government says this is to head off the risk of a new wave of covid-19 caused by the delta variant. They say the postponement will buy time to vaccinate more people.
According to the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), computer models of lifting restrictions project a “large resurgence” in cases and hospital admissions, which could be “considerably” larger than previous waves.
After falling for months, the number of new cases of covid-19 is rising again in all four nations of the UK. The rise is fuelled by the delta variant, which is believed to be about 60 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant alpha variant (formerly known as B.1.1.7) and is now the cause of almost 90 per cent of new cases in the UK.
Figures from Public Health England show that double vaccination is 80.8 per cent effective against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant, but single vaccination is much less effective, only providing 33.2 per cent protection. Equivalent figures for the alpha variant are 88.4 per cent and 50.2 per cent.
As of 12 June, only 45 per cent of the population of England was fully vaccinated and a further 17 per cent had had their first shot. That leaves 38 per cent unvaccinated, though that is largely younger people without underlying health conditions, a group who, we know, are much less likely to get seriously ill or go to hospital with the virus and extremely unlikely to die from the virus.