Experts have said the UK’s vaccination programme is giving a “false sense of security” amid a rise in Covid cases, as they call for next month’s unlocking to be delayed.
Monday (31 May) saw a further 3,383 lab-confirmed cases of Covid in the UK, with the number between 24 and 30 May being 22,474, which was 26.8 per cent higher than the previous seven days.
More than 39 million people have now been given a first jab and a further 25.3 million have had both doses of the vaccine.
Professor Ravi Gupta, member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there had been an “exponential growth” in the number of Covid cases due to the more transmissible Indian variant, but that the “explosive” impact it could have was being masked by the high vaccination rate.
He said: “It will probably take longer than earlier waves to emerge because of the fact that we do have quite high levels of vaccination in the population, so there may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern.
“I think the problem is we are not too far from reaching the sort of levels of vaccination that would help us contain the virus and I think that people are not saying we should abandon the June 21 date altogether but just to delay it by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence and we can look at the trajectory in a clearer way.
“If you look at the costs and benefits of getting it wrong, I think it is heavily in favour of delay.”
‘What we need to do is understand how things are going and adjust accordingly’
Leading scientific adviser Professor Adam Finn also said a clearer picture of the impact of the easing of restrictions earlier this month was needed before further relaxations take place.
Prof Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said that although encouraging data has emerged in recent weeks over Covid hospital admissions in the UK, any impact on admissions brought by the easing of restrictions in May would not be known until “around about June 21 or just before that”.
He told Good Morning Britan: “I think it’s unfortunate that everyone’s got this particular date in their head, because really what we need to do is understand how things are going and adjust accordingly.
“This time around, we should be cautious, wait to see what’s happening, and then let everyone free, if you like, once we know for sure that that’s safe and that we can do that without having another round of lockdowns and so on.”
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth reiterated this, as he said: “The decision to continue easing restrictions on June 21 must be taken based on data to keep people safe and prevent overwhelming the NHS.”