AP

Johnson voices caution over next lockdown easing in England

Jun 12, 2021, 7:41 AM | Updated: Jun 13, 2021, 7:47 am

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with European Commission President Ursula von der Leye...

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel during the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, Saturday June 12, 2021. (Peter Nicholls/Pool via AP)

(Peter Nicholls/Pool via AP)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a strong hint Saturday that the next planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England this month will be delayed as a result of the spread of the delta variant first identified in India.

In a series of interviews on the sidelines of the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in southwest England, Johnson conceded that he has grown more pessimistic about sanctioning the next easing scheduled for June 21 as the number of infections across the U.K. has struck levels not seen since February.

While daily infection levels have increased threefold over the past few weeks, they are still way down from the near 70,000 cases recorded in January at the peak of the pandemic’s second wave.

Johnson is set to make an announcement Monday about the June 21 timetable, the fourth stage in his government’s four-step unlocking plan for England. The British leader has repeatedly said any unlocking would be dependent on current, but for weeks he had indicated he thought the government would be able to remove all legal limits on social contact this month, including allowing nightclubs to reopen for the first time since the pandemic struck in March 2020.

However, the recent rise in new confirmed cases has led many scientists to call for a delay on what has been dubbed by sections of the British media as “Freedom Day”, potentially of up to four weeks, so more people can get vaccinated before the restrictions are lifted.

“It’s clear that the Indian variant is more transmissible, and it’s also true that the cases are going up, and that the levels of hospitalization are going up,” Johnson said on Sky News. “Now, we don’t know exactly to what extent that is going to feed through into extra mortality, but clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern.”

Asked whether he was less optimistic now than he was at the end of May, he replied: “Yes, that’s certainly fair.”

The U.K. has recorded nearly 128,000 coronavirus-related deaths, more than any other nation in Europe. After the devastating winter surge, COVID-19 deaths fell sharply recently following a strict months-long lockdown and the rapid rollout of vaccines.

The improved backdrop has allowed lockdown restrictions to be eased in the U.K. over the past couple of months, with most sectors of the economy and society operating within social distancing guidelines. The four nations of the U.K. — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have lifted restrictions at different paces but have generally pursued similar plans.

Supporters of a pause, which includes the British Medical Association, say it would make the vaccine rollout more effective by allowing more younger people to get their first shot and older people to receive their second, which evidence shows helps contain the delta variant.

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the British Medical Association council, said “there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work” of the country’s vaccination program and further fuel infections.

“It’s not just about the number of hospitalizations, but also the risk to the health of large numbers of younger people, who can suffer long-term symptoms affecting their lives and ability to work,” he added.

The vaccine rollout, which has primarily been based on age, was extended to 25- to 29-year-olds earlier this week. The government has said it wants every adult to have received at least one dose by the end of July. Around 62% of the British population has had one shot so far, while about 44% has had two.

Government figures reported Saturday showed 7,738 new daily cases, slightly down from the previous day’s 8,125, which was the highest one-day figure since Feb. 26.

The delta variant, which is considered to be at least 40% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain, now accounts for more than 90% of all new confirmed infections in the U.K.

Though Johnson appeared to indicate that he was ready to sanction a pause in the lockdown-easing, he sought to downplay any concerns that restrictions would be re-imposed. When announcing the government’s four-stage plan for coming out of lockdown in February, Johnson stressed that every scheduled easing would be driven by “data, not dates” and that each stage would be irreversible.

“The whole point of having an irreversible roadmap is just that, to make it irreversible, and to do that sometimes, as I’ve said repeatedly, you have to be cautious,” he said.

“Just to cheer you up a little bit, I would like to tell you that the scientists are agreed about one thing: They do not think there is any case for going into reverse,” Johnson added.

___

Jill Lawless contributed from Falmouth, England.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

1 day ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

1 day ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

5 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

6 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

13 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

Johnson voices caution over next lockdown easing in England