Doubts have been cast as to whether the lifting of Covid restrictions will take place on the planned date of 21 June, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it’s still too soon to make a final decision.
The Prime Minister said there is still “nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead with Step 4” of lifting coronavirus restrictions, but added that as infection rates are increasing “we’ve got to be so cautious.”
Mr Johnson said that although “we always knew that was going to happen,” the Government now needs to work out “to what extent the vaccination programme has protected enough of us, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, against a new surge,” but that “the data is still ambiguous.
“The best the scientists can say at the moment is we just need to give it a little bit longer,” he added.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s plans amid warnings over the spread of the Indian variant, a No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions that we haven’t seen anything in the data but we will continue to look at the data, we will continue to look at the latest scientific evidence as we move through June towards June 21.”
This comes as health experts are also divided over whether the June unlocking should go ahead as planned or be delayed.
Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there are still many people who are vulnerable to the effects of Covid, and warned that going ahead with the easing of restrictions on 21 June “may be a bad decision”.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), also said that a delay of a few weeks could have a positive impact on the UK’s battle against the new highly-transmissible Indian Covid variant, by allowing more people to be fully vaccinated.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday (2 June) that current figures “don’t look too intimidating”.
However, he did say that the figures still need to “play out for a couple of weeks” before the Government makes its final decision on whether the easing of restrictions can go ahead.
The Government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, has also argued that ministers need more data before they can make a final decision.
However, Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, argued that it is “really important that we go ahead on June 21” from a “societal point of view”.