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British PM Johnson announces delay to lockdown easing British PM Johnson announces delay to lockdown easing  (ANSA)

Covid-19: British Prime Minister delays lifting of restrictions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has delayed by four weeks the planned lifting of most remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England, with the new date now set for July 19th. Johnson said if the government were to lift restrictions on June 21st as first planned, there could be thousands more deaths owing to the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

By Suzy Hodges

The delay in the lifting of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions had been widely expected after a number of scientists had warned the government earlier of a significant rise in people needing hospital treatment if the easing of restrictions went ahead.

Britain has experienced a dramatic surge of new Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, blamed on the spread of the Delta variant that first emerged in India. Health experts believe the variant is up to 60 percent more transmissible than the original dominant strain and it now represents over 90 percent of new cases in the UK.  Last week’s tally of Covid-19 cases was more than 50,000 which was almost double that for the previous week.

This is despite Britain having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with nearly 80 percent of the adult population having received at least one dose and more than 56 percent now fully inoculated.

Johnson said a four-week delay in the final easing of the lockdown would allow more people to get vaccinated and save many thousands of lives.

The delay means pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and other venues won’t be allowed to fully reopen for another four weeks.  However, some restrictions will be lifted on June 21st including the limits on wedding guest numbers.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry has announced that England’s vaccination programme will be speeded up with access to vaccines being rolled out in more areas of the country.  The government says Johnson is determined that the remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England will be lifted on July 19th but scientists are warning that a rise in deaths could scupper this plan.

15 June 2021, 13:32