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PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson is facing mounting calls to delay the final easing of lockdown restrictions as Covid cases continue to soar across the country.
New analysis revealed today that infection rates are rising in more localities in Britain than at any point since early January, with numbers up in almost all parts of north-west England, London and Scotland.
Ministers are due to announce whether they will delay the planned final relaxations of restrictions on June 21 within the next seven days.
But former scientific adviser to the government Prof Sir David King stressed today: “I don’t think we can possibly wait [to impose restrictions] any longer,” warning that surging cases are pointing to a new third wave.
Prof King, who chairs the Independent Sage group of scientists, suggested the date should be pushed back a few weeks.
“[On] the number of people in our hospitals, which the government says is relatively stable, it’s 932 per day going into hospital, which is up 65 from last week,” he said. “It’s not actually stable, it is slowly rising.”
“I’m very reluctant to say that we should not go out of lockdown on June 21, but I think the figures are in now, and it will be wise for the government to announce right away a delay in opening.”
Prof King said that while those vaccinated twice are “relatively safe” against the virus, one in 25 new cases are people who have had both jabs.
Last week, Independent Sage warned that there is increasing evidence that vaccine efficacy is compromised by the delta variant, also known as the Indian strain, believed to be behind the surge in cases.
Despite mounting calls to delay lifting restrictions, the Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted today that there remains “nothing in the data” to suggest restrictions should not be lifted at the earliest date.
He added that the government will be looking closely at the data over the coming week to determine whether the vaccine rollout has “sufficiently severed” the link between rising cases and hospitalisations.
Campaign groups have also called for a delay to the lifting of restrictions, highlighting the “disastrous” consequences of government failures to take firm action on curtailing infections previously.
Calling for the June 21 date to be pushed back, Keep Our NHS Public co-chair Dr John Puntis said: “At present there is not only a very clear surge in new cases but also a small but definite increase in hospital admissions.
“To reduce spread of virus, we need proper support for those asked to isolate, improved ventilation in indoor environments, face masks for secondary-school children, stricter controls on borders and international travel, speedier vaccine rollout and a serious global vaccine initiative.”
Health workers also supported a more cautious approach to lifting restrictions, warning against an “unchecked leap to freedom.”
Royal College of Nurses acting general secretary Pat Cullen said: “We are already seeing Covid-19 cases on the rise in some areas, and ministers must now watch the data and not the dates to keep these under control.
“Taking the right steps now will prevent this from becoming a wave that could threaten the recovery we have all worked so hard to deliver.”
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “NHS staff are exhausted and well in need of a break. But there’s the huge backlog looming over them.
“Ministers must balance the needs of affected businesses and the desire for a return to normality with the risk to, and the likely stresses on, the NHS.
“Giving health workers a pay rise now would be a good first step to reducing that pressure.”
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