British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resolved on Monday June 14 to postpone for four weeks the lifting of the latest restrictions in England to fight the Covid-19 epidemic, on the advice of scientists worried about the surge of the Delta variant.
During a press conference in Downing Street, the Prime Minister said to himself “ very concerned ” by the Delta variant. Originally appeared in India, it “Is spreading faster than expected in the roadmap drawn up in February”, which provided for a total reopening as of June 21. The leader therefore prefers “Wait until July 19, to give the [service de santé] the additional time required “.
The European country most bereaved by the pandemic (nearly 128,000 dead) was able to restore over the spring many freedoms previously lost, thanks to a long confinement and a very effective vaccination campaign. The euphoria and the impression of victory in the face of the virus are however clouded by the sudden deterioration observed in recent weeks, with daily contaminations dropping from 2,000 to 7,000 and hospitalizations starting to increase, even if the number of deaths per day remains less than ten. This trend is attributed to the Delta variant, now dominant in the country and accounting for 96% of new cases.
“A few crucial weeks”
To give himself time and avoid escalating the trend, Mr Johnson announced to the press on Monday that he had taken the ” difficult decision “ to postpone from June 21 to July 19 the last stage of its deconfinement plan for England (each nation in the United Kingdom having its own timetable). The latter must result in the end of the limitation to six indoor meetings, the authorization for pubs to serve at the bar and for theaters to accommodate at full capacity.
The only concession is that wedding receptions will no longer be limited to thirty guests as of June 21. “We can’t go on (…) while there is a real possibility that the virus outperforms vaccines and thousands more deaths will follow ”, argued Mr Johnson. He explained that he wanted to donate to the health service “A few crucial weeks” in order to continue vaccination.
“We have to be clear that we cannot just eliminate Covid-19, we have to learn to live with it”, he warned, believing that the immunization campaign should allow it. The goal is now to offer, by July 19, a first dose to all adults and two doses to two-thirds of adults, including all over 50 and vulnerable people. Currently, almost 80% of adults have received one dose, but only 57% have received two doses.
According to studies conducted by the British health authorities, vaccines are less effective against symptomatic forms of the Delta variant than other variants with a single dose, but two doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines are more than 90% effective against hospitalizations. “We are in a race against the virus and vaccines must take the lead”, insisted the scientific adviser of the government, Patrick Vallance.
Attacks on freedoms
The postponement announced on Monday would be very popular with the public, worried about seeing the situation deteriorate: according to a survey by the YouGov institute, 71% of those questioned are in favor and 54% among 18-24 year olds, less at risk. . However, it provokes the wrath of part of the conservative camp of Mr. Johnson, raised against the endless attacks on freedoms, and consternation in the economic and cultural circles concerned.
The federation of the hotel and catering industry UKHospitality estimated at 3 billion pounds (3.5 billion euros) the shortfall of the sector with a month of postponement of the end of deconfinement, also worrying about“A ricochet effect on reservations all summer and in autumn” and asking for new public aid.
The Night Time Industries Association, representing the nighttime world, estimates that a quarter of companies in the sector will not survive an additional month of shutdown without new support. She fears that the workforce will permanently desert these establishments.
The famous composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose musicals (like Cats or The Phantom of the Opera) have achieved enormous success in London and New York, has already warned: he intends to reopen his theater to launch his production of Cinderella, even if it means risking prison.