British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed his plan to lift coronavirus restrictions in England for at least another four weeks to try to avoid “thousands” of more deaths and an increase in hospitalizations.
The government was forced to act after models showed that hospital admissions could reach levels similar to the first wave of infections from the pandemic in the spring of 2020, a maximum of 3,099 per day if Johnson stuck to his schedule. to end social distancing rules on June 21.
In a televised press conference Monday, Johnson said he had no choice but to delay his plan until at least July 19 to allow more people to receive their second dose of vaccine.
“As it is, and based on the evidence that I can see at this point, I’m sure we won’t need more than four weeks,” Johnson said. “Being cautious now, we have the opportunity in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions of people.”
The government is expected to submit the delay to a debate and vote on Wednesday in Parliament, where Johnson is likely to face the ire of his conservative colleagues for reversing what they called “Freedom Day.”
Johnson had initially planned to lift all legal limits on social contact this month, according to the fourth step of his “roadmap” to get out of lockdown. That would have meant nightclubs reopening, people lining up at bars again, stadiums filling up, and big conferences being on the agenda again.
An exception was made for weddings and the 30-person limit will be removed to allow an unlimited number of guests, provided there is no dancing and social distancing is respected.
Covid cases have risen rapidly, driven by the highly communicable delta variant, first identified in India, and now dominant in Britain.
Infections in England are increasing by 70% each week nationally, Johnson’s spokesman Max Blain told reporters on Monday, and in about a third of the country, they are doubling each week. This has raised hospital admissions by 15% each week, and 66% in the North West of England.
The emergence of the delta variant has forced a change in mindset in vaccine deployment, which previously prioritized the first doses to protect as many people as possible as quickly as possible.