Matt Hancock, the UK’s health secretary, has said it is ‘too early to say' if the lockdown measures would be eased up on June 21. Civil servants are framing a contingency plan to delay Freedom Day by 2 weeks as advisers suggest reopening this month would be foolish. As per the latest evidence, the new Delta strain is 40% more transmissible than the Kent strain that the UK witnessed during the winter.
Boris Johnson’s roadmap promised to lift all legal limits on social contact in the fourth stage, which was planned on June 21. However, in rounds of interviews, the health secretary has said that the ministers are ‘absolutely open’ to delay the last step of the road map if the situation worsens.
The Indian variant aka, the Delta variant, has now become the most dominant in the UK. The cases have rocketed up by 70%, from 5472 cases last week to 12,431 cases. Amidst this distressing spread of the virus, the easing up of restrictions is uncertain and, Mr Hancock said:
It is too early to make a final decision on that. The Prime Minister and I and the team will be looking at all of the data over this week. We have said that we will give people enough time ahead of the June 21 date which is pencilled in as the next step - which is to be not before June 21 - and the critical thing is to see whether the four tests we have set have been met.
While the decision is yet to be made on the last stage of the roadmap, Boris Johnson awaits critical data on how quickly the new strain spreads. Reportedly, it is ‘more difficult' to take a decision due to the spread of the Delta variant, which has had a ‘very significant impact’ over the last month or so.
Vaccination is the only hope
While the government ponders on postponing the easing up of lockdown till July 5, vaccination appears to be their only hope. It believes that the new variant is difficult to manage and, delaying Freedom Day would allow vaccinating more people, thus save more lives. Mr Hancock said:
But crucially, after two doses of vaccine we are confident that you get the same protection that you did with the old variant. So the good news is that the vaccine still works just as effectively.
So even if the government would delay the upliftment of restrictions, the strategy would still remain the same, meaning, vaccination of as many people as possible. This way, the government aims to break the link between the number of cases to the number of hospitalisations:
Everybody must go and get their second jab though because the first isn't as effective on its own.
Further, even when the restrictions ease up, a few of them, like masks and work from home, may stay in place as they have been helpful.