Experts suggest delaying full reopening in England as Indian variant spreads.

Two scientists advising the British government have warned against lifting all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England on June 21st, as fears grow over the continued spread of the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said there had been an “exponential growth in the number of new cases” sparked by the new variant and urged the government to delay the June unlocking by “a few weeks”.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so . . . what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave.”

With up to three-quarters of all new cases now involving the B.1.617.2 variant, Prof Gupta argued that more data was needed before lifting further restrictions. Under the government’s road map, all legal restrictions on social contact are to be removed from June 21st.

“I think that people are not saying we should abandon the June 21 date altogether, but just to delay it by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence and we can look at the trajectory in a clearer way,” he said. “If you look at the costs and benefits of getting it wrong, I think it is heavily in favour of delay, so I think that’s the key thing.”

In recent weeks other members of Nervtag have also voiced concern at the spread of the new variant.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged ministers on Monday to “learn from earlier mistakes”, adding that the single biggest threat remained ministerial “incompetence”.

“Weak, slow decisions on border policy let this variant in, continued lack of sufficient self-isolation support and a stand-off with local public health directors over vaccination policy failed to contain it,” he said.

French restrictions

As of Monday, 3,383 new infections were reported across the country – a slight increase on the 3,240 reported the previous day. Also on Monday, France became the latest European country to introduce restrictions on non-essential travel to those arriving into the country from the UK.

Meanwhile, Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, also urged caution over the lifting of restrictions, stating: “I think it’s unfortunate that everyone’s got this particular date in their head, because really what we need to do is understand how things are going and adjust accordingly.

“What we’ve done wrong in the past is left it too late and delayed making decisions, ultimately pushed them back and then ended up with large waves of infection,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain, speaking in a personal capacity.

More than 39 million people across the UK have been vaccinated with one dose, while 25.5 million people have now been fully inoculated. Ministers are aiming to vaccinate all over-50s with both doses of the jab before the proposed June easing.

The latest vaccine push comes as data from Public Health England indicated that two doses of the vaccine were needed in order to receive maximum protection against the B.1.617.2 variant.

PHE data showed that two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine were 88 per cent effective, while two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine were 60 per cent effective. One dose of either vaccine was only 33 per cent effective against the variant.

Environment minister George Eustice said on Monday that a final decision on the planned lifting would be announced to the public on June 14th, as the government continues to monitor the latest data.

“We can’t rule anything out because we know this has been a difficult pandemic, a dynamic situation,” Mr Eustice told the BBC. “The prime minister said all along that he is going to take this one step at a time.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Tucker: You deserve better

Tucker: You deserve better

'Tucker Carlson Tonight' host highlights a moment from NYC mayoral debate. #FoxNews #Tucker Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News Channel (FNC) is a 24-hour all-encompassing news service delivering...

Ethiopia: Tigray conflict overshadows Abiy Ahmed's quest for legitimacy - DW News.

Ethiopia: Tigray conflict overshadows Abiy Ahmed's quest for legitimacy - DW News.

Ethiopians are voting in national elections on Monday. It's a day of reckoning for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as he hopes to boost his legitimacy with the vote.At his first and last campaign rally this week, he said his main goal is to uphold what ...

Shocking video shows 2 children caught in the middle of NYC shooting.

Shocking video shows 2 children caught in the middle of NYC shooting.

Disturbing video captured a brazen shooting in New York City. CBS New York reports a gunman appears to ambush his target in the middle of a Bronx street, and two innocent children are caught in the commotion. CBSN is CBS News’ 24/7 digital streami...

Euro 2020: Police arrest 18 people as crowds celebrate Scotland's 0-0 draw with England.

Euro 2020: Police arrest 18 people as crowds celebrate Scotland's 0-0 draw with England.

Police arrested 18 people amid celebrations in central London as Scotland played to a goalless draw against rivals England in a UEFA EURO 2020. Football fans crowded into Leicester Square on Friday (June 18). In the 12th minute at Wembley Stadium,...

House Republicans call to remove Kamala Harris as 'border czar'.

House Republicans call to remove Kamala Harris as 'border czar'.

South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman criticizes Vice President Kamala Harris for failing to visit the border, and the push to remove her as border czar. #FoxNews Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News C...

JUNETEENTH: TOGETHER WE TRIUMPH l PART 5 - ABC News.

JUNETEENTH: TOGETHER WE TRIUMPH l PART 5 - ABC News.

H.E.R. performs 'Fight for You': Part 5 "Juneteenth: Together We Triumph -- A Soul of a Nation Special Event" can be seen on demand on the ABC app or on Hulu. #ABCNews #Juneteenth #SoulOfANation