Boris Johnson’s four-week delay to Freedom Day ‘could keep thousands out of hospital’, top doctor says

BORIS Johnson's four-week delay to 'freedom day' could keep thousands of people out of hospital, a top medic says.

The PM is preparing to tell Brits stage four in his roadmap out of lockdown will be delayed by a month amid surging cases fuelled by the Indian mutation, now known as the Delta variant.

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And while some – including a Government advisor – fear the delay will be "extremely damaging", ministers have been told the decision will likely spare many from being rushed to hospital

It's understood Mr Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have now signed off on the four-week delay.

Brits will be told of the change today.

And modelling set to be released within hours will show that a month-long pause will likely prevent some of the most vulnerable Brits from being ill enough to be rushed onto wards.

Mr Johnson will speak after it was revealed virus cases have leapt a third in just a week, with another 7,490 positive tests recorded yesterday, as well as eight fatalities.

It comes as:

  • Almost a third of patients who died after catching the Indian ‘Delta’ variant had both jabs – as fears of a third wave grow
  • UK Covid cases are up a third in a week as 7,490 more test positive and another eight people die
  • Dominic Raab demands ‘all the answers’ from China over the origin of the virus – although the UK doesn't believe a lab leak is to blame
  • A Sage scientist said it's ‘very clear Britain will have substantial third wave’
  • It's feared Britain ‘faces 100,000 Covid cases every day by July’

Dr Raghib Ali, an honorary consultant in acute medicine at the Oxford University hospitals NHS trust, told the Guardian: “In terms of emergency admissions, last month was the busiest since the start of the pandemic.

"We are much busier now in emergency departments than at the peaks of either the first or second wave.

“In other parts of the hospital we are catching up with a lot of elective work because of the backlog, so for both of those reasons it’s a very bad time to have additional pressure from Covid.

“Before vaccination, all a delay did was push cases into the future, but we can vaccinate millions of people in those four weeks and that will substantially reduce the size of the peak hospitalisations because of that increased coverage."

About 44 per cent of UK adults are not yet fully vaccinated against Covid.

More than two million of that number are aged 50 and over.

At the current rate of rollout, a delay of four weeks would mean another nine million people could have their second doses.

Public Health England research found that a single dose of the jab was just 33 per cent effective against the Indian mutation.

Protection ramps up significantly, to around 81 per cent, with a second dose.

Professor Rowland Kao of the University of Edinburgh told the publication: “There are a couple of things that are happening that should make a big difference in the next few weeks.

"First of all, vaccinations. Second, and slightly more subtly, schools will be out soon, and every week closer to that means less mixing in schools and more people likely to be off work, both reducing transmission.

"Both of those things, vaccinations and schools, means that the delay has real benefit right now.”

And Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, warned: “To my mind it’s essential we give ourselves more time to get vaccination rates up.

“It’s not good enough, where we are. We need more time for vaccinations and more time to see what the severity of the disease is like.

"If it’s causing double or two and a half times the hospital admissions, we need to understand that better.”

But Professor Robert Dingwall, who sits on a series of coronavirus advisory committees, says now is the time to lift restrictions.

How will the roadmap unfold?

June 14 – Boris Johnson will address nation and lay out his plan to delay June 21

June 21 – Original date set for 'Freedom Day' now likely to be delayed

July 5 – Boris Johnson will review and assess the data as part of his 'two-week break clause'. Restrictions could be eased partially or fully if data is positive 

July 19 – Proposed new 'Freedom Day' when PM hopes to lift all restrictions across England

Speaking to the Telegraph, Prof Dingwall said: “It is extremely damaging to business confidence, the economy, morale – especially since there isn’t really a clear justification for it.

"What we are seeing is the beginning of what endemic Covid looks like and we should be unlocking and living with that.

“I have been saying for 10 days now the only thing that would persuade me [not to lift restrictions] is a significant increase in intensive care admissions, and that is not happening.”

Mr Johnson will likely tell Brits today that there will be no further easing – despite the runaway success of the jabs rollout.

It means pubs will likely be restricted to table service, with the return of propping up the bar still some way off.

Meanwhile, theatres and cinemas will continue to be restricted to just 50 per cent capacity, clubs will remain closed, and people will be told to continue working from home if they can.

One source told the Sun: "No one wants to go backwards, and we have to get this right first go.

“The last thing they need is a hokey cokey of in out, in out of restrictions."

And a senior UK government source told The Telegraph the message had always been "cautious but irreversible", adding: "That has been our mantra throughout and that continues.

"It would be far worse to have uncertainty and go backwards.

"It is better to be cautious and have certainty. It is one last heave. It is a straight race between the vaccine and the virus.' "

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