With the planned date of the final easing of social restrictions in Britain approaching, UK health secretary Matt Hancock has said that he is absolutely open to not reopening on June 21 “if that’s what needs to happen.” Hancock told Sky News on Sunday that it is too early to make a final decision on easing of restrictions, highlighting the growing concern over the coronavirus variant first identified in India.
The final step of the United Kingdom’s planned four-step roadmap out of lockdown has seemingly been thrown in doubt with the rise of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 first identified in India. Repeating the findings of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), Hancock said that the Delta variant, B.1.617.2, is 40 per cent more transmissible than the original strain.
“It’s more difficult to manage this virus with the new variant. But after two doses of vaccine we are confident that you get the same protection as you did with the old variant,” the UK health secretary said. “The vaccine works just as effectively, and everyone must get their second jab though, as the first on its own isn’t quite as effective,” he added.
The Independent SAGE on Friday warned against progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, saying there is “increasing evidence that vaccine efficacy is compromised against this variant.” The independent group of scientists said that there is some evidence that protection from two doses of vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) wanes after a number of months, particularly in the elderly.
“As things stand, it is very difficult to justify progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, scheduled for 21st June, a point that should be made now to modify current false hopes,” the group said.
Earlier this week, Public Health England (PHE) stated that the Delta variant has become the dominant variant of concern in Britain, overtaking the Alpha variant, B.1.1.7, first identified in Kent, UK. PHE’s latest weekly data on circulating variants showed that there were 5472 new cases of the Delta variant in the UK in the week to May 26, bringing the total number of cases of the variant detected to 12,431.