June 21 reopening may be delayed over concerns of new Covid variants

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It is clear that it would be “foolish” and a “major risk” to go ahead with the June 21 reopening, an expert on an advisory group to the Government has said.

Professor Stephen Reicher said there is currently enough evidence to say one of the Government’s four key tests for its road map out of lockdown has not been met.

The member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) which advises the Government, said the criteria about the current assessment of the risks not being fundamentally changed by new variants of concern is “not upheld” due to the spread of the Indian variant.

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He told the PA news agency: “I think by the Government’s own criteria it’s quite clear that it would be foolish to proceed on the data that we’ve got at the moment. The risk would be very great indeed.

Experts have voiced concern over the June 21 reopening due to new Covid variantsExperts have voiced concern over the June 21 reopening due to new Covid variants
Experts have voiced concern over the June 21 reopening due to new Covid variants

“And of course it’s a balance of risks but I think it would be a major risk to go further in opening up.”

He added: “Again, I make the point that it is about data not dates, and if you make it too much about the dates then you box yourself into a corner and I think that’s what the Government has done.”

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 about easing restrictions on June 21.

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He told Times Radio: “It’s a hard one. I’m going to be annoying and sit a little bit on the fence on this, as I don’t think it’s our role as epidemiologists to call that.

“I think the difficult thing that we have, the difficult situation the government have is of course if you delay that then of course you’ll get a smaller subsequent wave.

“I mean that’s the case with any control policy – if you leave them in for a longer period of time then it’s going to reduce cases.

“But of course, if you delay that we know that negatively impacts businesses, people’s livelihoods, and so forth.

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“So this is the difficult call that they have to make, and all we can do is put together as much evidence as possible and say this is what we expect to happen if you relax on June 21, this is what we may expect if you delay that by two weeks for example or four weeks and so on, so they have all the evidence they can to make the decision.”

Covid-19 cases in the community have surged by around three quarters in just one week in England, new data shows.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that around 85,600 people in England were infected with coronavirus in the week to 29 May, which equates to approximately one in 640 people in private households.

This is the highest level recorded since mid-April and is up from 48,500 people, equating to one in 1,120 people in private households, in the week ending 22 May. This represents an increase of 76.5 per cent.

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