Next stage of lockdown easing could be delayed by two weeks
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
There is mounting speculation that the planned lifting of lockdown restrictions in England on June 21 will be delayed, due to a 75pc increase in the number of people with Covid-19.
Reports suggest pushing back the next and final stage of lockdown easing by two weeks is being considered.
Multiple reports have also suggested plans to lift restrictions could be scaled down, with social distancing and the wearing of face coverings set to continue amid concerns the Indian variant is fuelling a surge in cases.
On Friday the UK recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases - 6,238 - since late March, according to official figures.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggested the number of people who had the virus in England has increased by around three quarters in a week, taking it to its highest tally since mid-April, with the R value between 1 and 1.2.
According to the Telegraph, a two-week delay to the final stage of Boris Johnson's road map will be used to accelerate second jabs for over-40s, moving from a 12 to eight-week gap between doses, echoing the practice that is already in place for over-50s.
Those aged over 25 will also be offered their first doses from next week, the newspaper said.
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It comes as laboratory data from the Francis Crick Institute backed up a policy of reducing the gap between jabs.
The study found that after just one dose of the Pfizer jab, people are less likely to develop antibody levels against the Indian (B.1.617.2) variant, also known as Delta, as high as those seen against the previously dominant Kent variant, which has been dubbed Alpha.
Dr Rosalind Eggo, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) Government advisory panel, said with "very early evidence" showing that the current vaccines on offer "don't work quite as well against the Delta variant", it was important to increase the rate of second jabs.
"Getting those second doses up, pushing that number up as high as possible is really important," she told BBC's Newsnight.
No 10 sources said suggestions of a delay to the road map was "speculation", with the Prime Minister telling broadcasters this week there was still "nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead with Step 4".