Hospitalisations across the UK are slowly rising as the now-dominant Delta variant has driven up infection rates and delayed the end to social restrictions by a month.
The latest figures show 227 coronavirus patients were admitted to hospital on 22 June, significantly higher than the double digit lows seen in mid-May, when the seven-day average reached a low of 98 hospital admissions per day.
Cases are growing at a much faster rate, with 22,868 people testing positive on 28 June, with 116,287 cases being recorded within the week, marking a nearly 70 per cent increase over the previous week.
Although Boris Johnson’s roadmap was scheduled to end on 21 June, the threat posed by the Delta variant – thought to be at least 40 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant identified in Kent – proved too great to safely lift all restrictions. This variant now accounts for 95 per cent of all new infections in the UK, according to Public Health England, with some 35,000 new cases registered in the week up to 16 June.
While he acknowledged that cases were “ticking up” he said that the death rate remained “mercifully low”, although he noted that the number of hospital admissions had doubled since May.
“We owe it to the British people who have sacrificed so much to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can. And not to wait a moment longer than we need,” he said.
On 28 June, Boris Johnson said that the situation was “set fair” for restrictions to be lifted on 19 July, at which point he said the country could “return to pretty much life before Covid,” as long as enough vaccines are rolled out in the coming weeks.
But scientists advising the government continue to urge caution. Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Nervtag advisory group from Imperial College London, told Sky News there was a “possibility” that the easing of restrictions would once again need to be pushed back, depending on vaccination rates.
“It’s so important that we get the vaccination rates as high as we can before there’s any consideration of easing the current restrictions which are not really holding the outbreak, you can see the numbers increasing, despite the measures that we have in place at the moment,” he said.
Despite the growth in Covid infections due to the Delta variant, vaccines have been shown to be largely successful in the prevention of hospital admissions — more than four-fifths of people hospitalised with the new variant were either unvaccinated or had only received one jab. Government data also shows that vaccines have already prevented around 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in England.
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