New spread of COVID in UK raises concerns over June 21 unlock
The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England nearly doubled in the last week of May and the estimated “R” breeding number increased as the “delta” variant spread, raising concerns about plans to unlock the country.
COVID-19 restrictions in England are due to end on June 21, but the rapid spread of the delta variant first detected in India now threatens to derail that timeline.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday he would exercise caution in lifting restrictions, but there is nothing in current data to indicate a delay. The statistics released on Friday appeared to be heading in the wrong direction, however. Read more
The Office for National Statistics said about 1 in 640 people in England had COVID-19 in the week ending May 29, up from 1 in 1,120 a week earlier, marking the highest proportion since first half of April.
The UK Department of Health has estimated England’s “R” breeding number to remain above 1 for a second week and the outbreak could increase by up to 3% each day. Read more
The estimated R number was between 1.0 and 1.2, which means that on average 10 infected people will infect between 10 and 12 more people. Last week it was estimated to be between 1.0 and 1.1.
ONS estimates – based on population samples – also suggested that the UK variant of COVID was no longer the dominant strain in England and that the increase in cases was due to the Delta variant.
Public Health England warned on Thursday that the Delta variant is now dominant in Britain and could pose an increased risk of hospitalization. Read more
It is believed to spread faster than the previously dominant British variant, although experts say the vaccines still offer protection against serious illness.
Last month, Public Health England said two injections of the COVID-19 vaccine were almost as effective against the delta variant as against the UK variant.
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