Boris Johnson 'facing pressure' over June 21st says expert
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And Independent SAGE has said its conclusions stem from concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines against the new strain, especially with cases surging among schoolchildren who have yet to have their jabs. Mr Johnson is determined to stick to his plans for a so-called “liberation day”, and has given no indication that he is planning to reverse course.
However, Independent SAGE, a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public, believes the refusal to push back the reopening would be a mistake.
And it also unveiled a series of recommendations it argues are crucial in order to halt the number of rising cases in the community.
The group released an emergency statement in advance of its regular weekly briefing at 1.30pm, at which it will focus on the issue.
The India variant has now been named the Delta variant by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A spokesman said: ‘We are currently witnessing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in England.
“Public Health England figures released on June 3 suggest that the Delta variant has spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation.
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“There is increasing evidence that vaccine efficacy is compromised against this variant, and that individuals remain at particular risk until they receive two doses.
“There is some evidence that protection from two doses wanes after a number of months, particularly in the elderly.”
In addition, cases were surging in school-aged children, and spreading into the community, especially among those yet to be fully vaccinated, the spokesman said.
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He added: “It is clear that the link between infection and hospitalisation has not yet been fully broken.
“We wish to avoid another full lockdown, which will damage education and people’s wellbeing as well as the economy. This requires reversing the growth in cases.”
Looking to the immediate future, the spokesman said: “The UK government will announce their plans for future pandemic control on June 14.
“As things stand, it is very difficult to justify progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, scheduled for June 21, a point that should be made now to modify current false hopes.”
Independent SAGE also urged the Government to implement several key steps to reduce current levels of transmission, including:
- Strengthening financial and practical support to those requiring isolation following symptoms or a positive test, or for those in contact with positive testing individuals
- Ensuring adequate ventilation and infection control measures within indoor venues (e.g. schools, workplaces, hospitality), with rigorous monitoring, certification of venues, and sanctions where these measures are not undertaken
- Reinstating face coverings for secondary school children, and providing resources to enhance classroom ventilation
- Doing away with the red/amber/green travel stratification and implementing comprehensive border control with managed quarantine, in order to avoid the importation of novel variants and the exportation of UK infections
- Further accelerating vaccine rollout, and ensuring completion of two doses, to provide protection from infection. Boosters for vulnerable populations should be considered urgently by JCVI
- Adequately resourcing the global vaccine initiative, to ensure control of transmission worldwide
Despite Mr Johnson’s optimisms, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking yesterday prior to a G7 health ministers’ meeting, said: “It’s too early to say what the decision will be about step four of the road map, which is scheduled to be no earlier than June 21.
“Of course I look at those data every day, we publish them every day, the case numbers matter but what really matters is how that translates into the number of people going to hospital, the number of people sadly dying.
“The vaccine breaks that link – the question is how much the link has yet been broken because the majority of people who ended up in hospital are not fully vaccinated.”
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