June 21 Freedom Day reportedly to be delayed by four weeks

Amidst the rapid increase in the number of Delta variant cases, Boris Johnson would reportedly push back the Freedom Day until July 19 on Monday.

June 21 Freedom Day reportedly to be delayed by four weeks
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Following a rapid rise in the cases of Delta variant, first found in India, Boris Johnson is said to delay the final lifting of lockdown restrictions in England. The government plans to put back the June 21 Freedom Day for up to four weeks - until July 19. This decision comes as they race to roll out the vaccination drive for younger age groups.

The expected final decision would be taken on Sunday, whereas the formal announcement by Prime minister Boris Johnson would be made at a conference on Monday.

Why the delay?

There have been repeated warnings from scientists that the spread of the Delta variant could cause a ‘substantial’ third wave if the lockdown restrictions are lifted. While the government initially said it was too early to comment on the easing up of lockdown, Mr Johnson recently said:

On Monday ... we’ll have a look at where we are. I think what everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up, and in some cases hospitalisations are going up.

The Delta variant is estimated to be 60% more transmissible than the Kent variant that took over the UK in winter. On this, the foreign office minister James Cleverly said:

We always knew there would be a chance of mutations and variants - that’s why this unlocking process was a progressive one and that’s why we have had these decision points laid out … We will make decisions with regard to lockdown based on the most up-to-date information.

That said, there are bleak chances that the easing up would happen as planned, as the Delta variant accounts for 96% of the new cases in the UK. Public Health England data showed an increase of 29,892 cases from the previous week, making a total of 42,323 cases on Friday.

Is vaccination effective?

Research published by NHS England suggests that two doses of vaccines are far more effective than a single dose. With a single dose of AstraZeneca and Pfizer the protection rate was just 33%, however with both jabs the rate went up to 60% and 88%, respectively. Thus, Mr. Johnson said:

What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage. And so that’s what we’ll be looking at.

Clearly, vaccines have proven to be tremendously effective. Consequently, British Medical Association chairman – Dr Chaand Nagpaul believes more time is needed to vaccinate the younger generation and argues:

With only 54.2 per cent of the adult population currently fully vaccinated and many younger people not yet eligible, there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge of infections.

Thus, the delay would focus mainly on vaccinating more people and preventing the possibility of a third wave as much as possible.