Scientists urge government to delay June 21 reopening because of now ‘dominant Indian variant’

'Right now, we do not have control over this variant and its growth in England and apparently not in Scotland either'

Boris Johnson

A group of experts is calling on Boris Johnson to delay further easing of Covid restrictions as cases of the Delta variant of the virus, which was first discovered in India, increase in England and Scotland. 

Independent SAGE issued an emergency statement after saying it believes that the new variant is more transmissible and vaccine resistant than other variants.

The intervention by the group of scientists who provide independent scientific advice to the government came as the UK reported over 5,000 cases on Thursday, for the first time since before restrictions were relaxed in late March, according to figures from Public Health England (PHE).

Professor Christina Pagel said that cases ‘were definitely going up’ this month and are ‘continuing to go up quite rapidly now’ in Scotland and England, with the former noticing an increase in cases of 51% in the last week while in England cases increased by 40% in the same period.

She said: “The Delta variant is dominant, it will keep growing in dominance, it’s happened remarkably quickly from really the beginning of April to the end of May.”

She added that the variant is spreading most in the north west of England, followed by London and the south east, but that it is growing across all regions of the country.

“Delta has been doubling every week since pretty much the 3rd of April,” she said.

Professor Pagel went on to add that ‘right now, we do not have control over this variant and its growth in England and apparently not in Scotland either.’

She added that school outbreaks of the virus were growing and that data showed the highest increase in case rates is to be found among 10-19 year olds and also among five to nine year olds, warning that secondary school aged children are seeing increases in infection first, which is then spreading out to older age groups.

The group of scientists called on the government not to progress with their roadmap “which is based on dates, not data”.

A spokesperson for Independent Sage said: “We are currently witnessing a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in England.

“Public Health England figures released on 3rd June suggest that the Delta variant has spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation.

“There is increasing evidence that vaccine efficacy is compromised against this variant, and that individuals remain at particular risk until they receive two doses.

“There is some evidence that protection from two doses wanes after a number of months, particularly in the elderly.

“Meanwhile, cases are surging in school aged children, and spreading into the community, particularly amongst those yet to be fully vaccinated. It is clear that the link between infection and hospitalisation has not yet been fully broken.

“We wish to avoid another full lockdown, which will damage education and people’s wellbeing as well as the economy. This requires reversing the growth in cases.”

Responding to concerns over the Delta variant, Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s certainly true the India variant is more transmissible and that it is growing, it is likely to become the dominant variant in the UK and these are all sources of caution. 

“But we’ll have to review all the data in the round before we make a final decision.”

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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