Rising Delta variant infections still major cause for concern as government weighs up decision on pressing ahead with final stage of unlocking on 21 June
The UK government’s hopes of bringing an end to the social restrictions imposed on the public since 23 March 2020 to tackle the coronavirus pandemic appear to be fading as the Delta variant of the disease continues to drive up infections across the country.
As it stands, Boris Johnson’s roadmap ends on 21 June when the last precautionary measures are due to be lifted. But the threat posed by the new strain – now thought to be 40 per cent more transmissible than the first – is raising doubts about the wisdom of pressing ahead.
Both NHS professionals and members of the public have expressed their anxiety about the prospect of ending restrictions, with a clear majority favouring the temporary prolonging of the status quo to allow for more people to get vaccinated against the virus.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News on Sunday: “It is too early to make a final decision. We’ll keep watching the data for another week or so and, critically, watching that link on the number of cases to the number of people who end up in hospital.
“And it is absolutely true that the number of people ending up in hospital is broadly flat at the moment.”
With Mr Hancock making clear that hospital admissions will be a key determining factor in government decision-making, here’s a graph plotting the number of people who have received medical attention after contracting Covid since Mr Johnson’s announcement of the first national lockdown last spring, based on the very latest government data.
As you can see, the graph is currently registering its first uptick in weeks, a worrying development that could represent a further setback to the dreams of millions desperate for a (relatively) normal summer.