Pedestrians relax in the sun in Greenwich Park in view of the skyscrapers in the Canary Wharf business, shopping and financial district in London, UK on Monday 29 March 2021.
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LONDON – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm on Monday that the final easing of lockdown rules in England will take place on July 19th.
The move comes despite a sustained surge in coronavirus cases caused by the more contagious Delta variant. Over 31,000 new cases were reported in the UK on Sunday.
However, Johnson is expected to caution as the country reopens, stressing that some public actions, such as the wearing of masks, are a matter of personal responsibility and sensible choice. Johnson had previously said Covid should “become a virus we learn to live with,” like the flu.
In comments the government released Monday morning, Johnson said, “We’re temptingly close to the final milestone on our lockdown roadmap, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.”
“While the phenomenal introduction of vaccines has offered every adult some protection from the virus and the critical link between cases, hospital admissions and deaths has been weakened, the global pandemic is not over.”
Johnson said Covid cases will increase if the country is unlocked. “As we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear. Caution is absolutely essential. “
Freedom Day – or step 4 in the government’s long-term plan to ease restrictions – has been postponed to July 19, after it was previously scheduled for June 21.
The government has said that “four tests” to relax Covid restrictions must be passed before relaxation can continue, including examining data to confirm vaccine adoption continues successfully and infection rates do not spike in hospital stays take risk.
The latest data will be presented on Monday, “with current modeling suggesting that Covid cases will continue to increase if restrictions are relaxed,” the government said in a statement on Monday.
“Hospitalizations, serious illnesses and deaths will also continue, albeit at a much lower level than before the vaccination program,” it said.
The delay in easing restrictions came when the variant of Delta Covid, originally discovered in India, spread across the country. While infection rates have increased, hospital admissions and deaths have not increased (although there was a slight increase in these latter two records), suggesting that coronavirus vaccines are preventing serious infections.
The analysis suggests that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization after two doses and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective.
The UK’s Covid vaccination program has been one of the fastest in the world, with 87.1% of the adult population now receiving a first dose of a vaccine and 66% two doses, government data shows.
The government said Monday that vaccination rollout will be further accelerated by moving second doses for under 40 to eight weeks.