According to the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the remaining restrictions on social contact are due to be lifted on June 21. However, the date was always dependent on the data, and with concerns over the Delta coronavirus variants growing and case numbers rising, scientists are urging the government to delay the big unlocking.
The Government is said to be “drawing up other options” for the end of lockdown, Sky News reported.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was “absolutely open” to delaying the end of lockdown, and that June 21 was a “not before” date that would depend on the data.
He said the Delta coronavirus variant was about 40 times more transmissible than the Alpha strain.
However, he added that hospitalisations were “broadly flat” which means the vaccine is working, particularly for those who have received both doses.
READ MORE: Could June 21 lockdown end be delayed until everyone has had 2 jabs?
He said: “It is abundantly clear that this test has not been met at present,” he said.
“I would be very worried about going ahead with plans to unlock in June.”
He added: “Whilst vaccines have proven highly effective in protecting groups that have received both doses, it is the case that a significant proportion of adults along with children remain susceptible.”
The virologist said it is a “worryingly common misconception” that younger people do not become seriously unwell from COVID, and with the Indian variant being more transmissible more people could be hospitalised, putting “tremendous pressure on the NHS”.
2. Wait for more people to be vaccinated
Dr Julian Tang, a consultant virologist at the University of Leicester, said he thinks the end of lockdown should be delayed until at least 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
He said: “If you open up completely you’re going to see bigger surges of what we see now – despite increased vaccinations and surge testing, cases are still rising in hotspots which must mean it’s rising elsewhere.”
“If you open everything up, you’ll see a bigger surge, then the government will panic and shut everything down again.
“From a purely virological point of view, you want to know what we’re doing now is going to control the virus down the line.
3. Keep some restrictions
The third thing we could see happen is the June 21 date met, but some restrictions on social contact remaining.
These could include mask-wearing and some working from home guidelines.
Dr Stephen Griffin said face masks, social distancing and restricted numbers of people should continue so “the same mistakes as 2020” are not made.
And Dr Andrew Preston, an infectious diseases microbiologist at the University of Bath, said: “I would probably carry on with opening up because large parts have already done anyway since 17 May, but I’d still have mask-wearing, still some social distancing measures but you don’t have to go all out.
“This time last year we said if vaccines could reduce the virus down to something like a flu then that would be great – we now have that.
“I think we’ll have to accept the virus is something we live with at some point, unless we say variants are so deadly we have to go back to the beginning – or have a booster that works against them.”