Government figures showed an additional 51,870 confirmed lab cases, the highest daily number since mid-January. The number of infections has soared in recent weeks, especially among unvaccinated young people, due to the much more contagious delta variant and the ongoing easing of lockdown restrictions.
Despite the increase, the UK government plans to lift all remaining legal restrictions on social contact in England on Monday, as well as social distancing guidelines and the legal requirement for people to wear masks in most indoor settings, including shops, trains, buses. and subways, to be deleted. .
The group, which includes advisers to the governments of Italy, New Zealand and Taiwan, said they have joined forces through a “sense of urgency” to warn of the global consequences of the rapid spread of the delta variant by the British population. .
The scientists cautioned that the combination of high infection prevalence and high vaccination levels “creates the conditions in which an immune escape variant is most likely to emerge.”
One of the co-signers of Friday’s statement, Dr. William A. Haseltine of the New York-based think tank Access Health International, went further, describing the apparent strategy of herd immunity as “homicidal” and “unreasonable.”
Families representing many of those who have died from COVID-19 in the UK also joined in criticizing the Conservative government’s plan.
“The overwhelming scientific consensus is that lifting restrictions on Monday will be disastrous, and bereaved families know firsthand how tragic the consequences of unlocking too early can be,” said Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families. for Justice. “There is a real fear that the government’s thinking is once again being driven by what’s popular rather than by the interests of the country.”
Other parts of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are taking more cautious steps to get out of lockdown.
So far, the number of people in hospitals with virus-related illnesses and subsequent deaths remains relatively low, especially compared to the peak of the second wave of the pandemic earlier this year.
But with the government alerting the country that the daily number of cases could rise to more than 100,000 sometime this summer, concerns are clearly mounting. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sought to curb any euphoria surrounding the lifting of restrictions on Monday, an occasion that has been tagged on social media as ‘Friday Day’.
Johnson urges people to remain vigilant when meeting others and to continue to wear masks in closed off and crowded places.
Its chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, told a webinar hosted by London’s Science Museum late Thursday that the UK is “not out of the woods yet”.
“I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly quickly,” said Whitty.
More cases will inevitably lead to more people requiring hospital care, although the vaccine’s rollout has helped build a wall of immunity around those considered most vulnerable to disease. More than two thirds of UK adults have received both doses of a vaccine and nearly 88% have had one dose.
Government data from Friday showed 3,964 people had been hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since late March. While the number has steadily risen in recent weeks, it remains much lower than at the peak of the second wave in January, when hospitals admitted about 40,000 COVID-19 patients.
In addition to the increase in hospital admissions, daily virus-related deaths have risen to levels not seen since March. A further 49 virus-related deaths were recorded on Friday, bringing the UK total to 128,642, the seventh highest in the world.
Government medical adviser Whitty warned that the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 is doubling about every three weeks and could reach “pretty scary numbers” if the current trend continues.
“We are far from done. We’re in much better shape thanks to the vaccine program, and drugs and a number of other things,” he said.
“But this still has a long way to go in the UK, and it goes even further to run globally,” he added.
One possible implication of the large spike in cases – for much of the spring cases in the UK hovered around 2,000 – is that it could overwhelm England’s efforts to monitor contacts of those infected with the virus. including the app that is widely used and that has been criticized in recent days.
“I can’t imagine track and trace will work much longer,” said James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford. “Neither the app nor the app are designed for 100,000 cases in a highly vaccinated population.”
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