UK delays end of restrictions as Indian COVID variant spreads

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The British government has postponed the full lifting of restrictions on curbing the coronavirus epidemic by four weeks compared with the original June 19 deadline due to the spread of a virus variant called delta, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday night.

Johnson stressed at a press conference in Downing Street that he was confident, based on available scientific data, that there would be no need to postpone the lifting of some of the restrictions still in place for more than four weeks. He emphasized that it was clear that vaccinations against the coronavirus were effective and that, thanks to the sheer scale of the vaccination campaign, the country was now in an incomparably better position than during previous waves of infection.

“I am confident we will not need more than four weeks, and we will not go beyond July 19”, he said. “But now is the time to ease off the accelerator.”

Britain will, however, ease attendance caps on weddings and funerals, but social distancing rules will still remain in effect at these events. The worst-hit by the announcement are the hospitality sector and night-time entertainment. Unlike originally planned, the half-capacity limit in stadiums will also remain in place, meaning less spectators at the Euro 2020 matches.

Junior Health and Social Care Minister Edward Algar said on Monday that the government was worried about the rapid spread of the delta variant of the virus, first identified in India.

“That’s what’s driving the spike. We’ve gone in a week from 12,000 cases to about 40,000 cases, and that’s a big jump,” Algar said, saying that the delta variant is “highly, highly infectious”. According to current estimates, 90 percent of new coronavirus cases in Britain are caused by the delta variant.

According to the latest data from the Department of Health and Social Care, 57 percent of adult Brits currently have received both doses of the vaccine and that ratio is expected to reach 76 percent by July 19.

Title image: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (MTI/EPA/Pool/Kenzo Tribouillard)

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