Rise in Covid cases 'marks start of third wave' and must delay June 21 unlocking, warns ex-Govt adviser

RISING Covid cases marks the start of a third wave, an ex Government adviser has warned.

Sir David King said an announcement to delay June 21 lockdown lifting should be made "right away" to allow for preparation.

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Speaking to Sky News, the former chief scientific adviser to the Government and chair of the Independent Sage Group, said the current Covid-19 figures are “evidence of another wave appearing”.

“(There are) 5,300 new cases of the disease per day in the United Kingdom and we’re up about 2,000 on last week.

“Now we’ve been discussing whether or not we’re going into a serious third wave and I don’t think we can possibly wait any longer.

“This is the evidence of another wave appearing.”

Sir David said hospital admissions are rising – despite the Health Secretary and NHS Providers chief saying there was no significant increase.

The Government dashboard shows aound 91 people are being admitted to England's hospitals a day compared to a low of 74 in May.

Sir David said: “It’s not actually stable, it is slowly rising.

“What all of this means is that intensive care is needed for a significant proportion of our population today.”

It comes amid reports Boris Johnson could delay step four of the lockdown plan by at least a fortnight, to July 5.

According to the Telegraph, a two-week delay will be used to accelerate second jabs for over-40s while moving the rollout to those in their 20s.

A UK Government spokeswoman said “no decision” had been made on whether to ease all coronavirus restrictions on June 21, 

Sir David said: “I’m very reluctant to say that we should not go out of lockdown on June 21, but I think the figures are in now, and it will be wise for the Government to announce right away a delay in opening, just so that we can all plan for the post June 21 period.”

Asked for how long, he said: “I would give a few weeks’ delay and see how the fingers are emerging.

“So, I don’t know how long.

“As the Prime Minister has said, it’s data, not dates, that we should be governed by, and that’s response as well.”

 

 

Although fully vaccinated people are “relatively safe against the virus”, Sir David said there are around 400 infections a day among those who have had both jabs.

He said: “Let’s not forget the one in 25 new cases are people who have been vaccinated twice – that means 400 new cases a day are people who had the vaccine twice.

“While there is an extensive amount of virus out there in the country, amongst our people, it is dangerous.”

He continued: “Dying isn’t the sole issue about that we’re trying to avoid here. 

“The number of people who are suffering from long Covid in the country is enormous and this is not a simply a flu, once you’ve had the vaccine.”

The PM will look over data this week to decide whether to go ahead with the June 21 lifting, which would see all social distancing scrapped.

Scientists have been piling the pressure on to delay amid spread of the Delta (Indian) variant, which is now dominant in the UK.

Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at University of Cambridge, said a delay would only need to be “a few more weeks rather than months”.

The scientist told BBC Breakfast that options could include a modification of a full exit from lockdown, involving continued mask-wearing in workplaces, and remote working.


He said: “I think that to go completely back to normal may not be in everyone’s best interests.

“The views of scientists such as myself and others reflects the fact that we want this to be the last lockdown that we ever go into, and we do not want to go into a reverse situation which would be much more damaging to the economy, people’s businesses and long-term welfare.”

Prof Gupta said people should not forget that the virus is still mutating and “becoming better at avoiding our defences”.

He told the programme: “The more transmissions that are allowed to happen, the greater the chance of these new added variants arising.”

And he said new infections are not being maintained at a low enough level “to remain fully open as a society in the long term”.

“We are in a situation where we could obtain huge gains just by a little bit more work”, Prof Gupta added.

Moving goalposts

Fears are growing over the Delta variant as data has suggested it may also cause more severe disease and weaken vaccine efficacy, as well as spread faster.

But making a call on whether to lift lockdown – which would see the return of nightclubs, gigs and large events – is not an easy one.

Ministers will be considering the chaos and impact on businesses and the economy by holding back.  

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) Government advisory panel, said the Government has a “difficult call” to make.

He told Times Radio: “Of course, if you delay that, we know that negatively impacts businesses, people’s livelihoods, and so forth.”

However, he said a delay would make sure another wave was smaller.

The prospect of the date being moved back has been met with anger by Tory MPs, who warned any delay could cost jobs and more harm to people's mental and physical health.

Senior backbencher John Redwood told The Sun: "They should stick to the plan. Deaths and serious case numbers are well down.

"The vaccines are working. It's time to do more to rescue livelihoods.

“The original mission statement was to save lives by protecting the NHS. We've done that. The more it moves the goalposts, the more people will be made redundant.”

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