One ally of Johnson said: “Irreversibility is driving Boris’ thinking. He doesn’t want to have to ease restrictions now to bring them back later.” Whitty told the prime minister a four-week delay was vital to avoid a situation in which restrictions are lifted prematurely, only to have to be restored later. Downing Street said “no decisions have been taken” about whether to lift restrictions on June 21. Johnson might relax guidance on the size of weddings on June 21, even if he retains other restrictions, according to government officials.
PHE data also indicated Delta, first identified in India, is 64 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha variant that originated in Kent. Nine in every 10 new Covid-19 cases are the Delta variant, according to a Public Health England report released on Friday.
Two senior Whitehall officials said Whitty advised Johnson this week to postpone what is meant to be the final stage of the government’s lockdown easing plan in England by four weeks and stressed that a shorter delay would be insufficient to control the spread of the virus. The expected delay to lifting restrictions comes as the NHS races to vaccinate more adults amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations across the UK due to the coronavirus variant named Delta. Almost 15m adults in England remain unvaccinated, including 2m people aged over 50, according to Financial Times analysis.
One Cabinet Office insider said: “A delay is the only sensible course of action. It’s our working assumption. The latest modelling is dire and it would be suicide to go ahead with a full easing.” The government’s medical advisers have modelled the impact of a four-week delay on vaccination levels, concluding that a smaller postponement would not make much difference. Johnson was given data on Thursday that outlined the latest analysis of the Delta variant and its potential impact on the NHS. “It is now critical we double jab everyone as quickly as possible,” said one official.
With two doses of a coronavirus vaccine showing good protection against infection from the Delta variant, the government is seeking to get more jabs into arms. Currently, 55.4 per cent of the adult population has had two doses. Recommended
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