British Medical Association calls for Freedom Day delay as Covid cases rise

·3-min read
Stock image (PA)
Stock image (PA)

The British Medical Association (BMA) has urged the Government to delay the planned easing of restrictions on June 21.

Fears that “Freedom Day” will be delayed have been growing amid the rise in cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in India.

There have been almost 30,000 new cases of the variant in the past week with 8,125 recorded on Friday alone.

England’s R rate has been above one for two weeks, indicating that the pandemic is growing.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA Council, said that “relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge in infections”.

“The UK’s vaccination programme has been a tremendous success and this, together with the hard work and sacrifices of so many, and measures such as social distancing and mask wearing, has helped us come a long way in our fight against this terrible virus,” Dr Nagpaul said.

“However, case numbers are now rising rapidly, and we know that those who are unvaccinated or have had only one dose of the vaccine remain vulnerable to getting the virus.

“The best protection is only achieved at about two weeks after the second dose, particularly with the Delta variant, and we will not have enough of the population properly protected by June 21.

“With only 54.2% of the adult population currently fully vaccinated and many younger people not yet eligible, there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge of infections.

“It’s not just about the number of hospitalisations, but also the risk to the health of large numbers of younger people, who can suffer long-term symptoms affecting their lives and ability to work.”

The government had planned to remove “all legal limits on social contact” from June 21, meaning there will no longer be restrictions on how many people can meet, indoors or outdoors.

Nightclubs and music venues will be allowed to reopen and larger events will be allowed to resume without limits on crowd numbers.

The government also planned to remove restrictions on weddings and funerals, although it has been reported that ministers are pushing for these restrictions to lift regardless of whether ‘Freedom Day’ is pushed back.

It is understood that the use of masks, social distancing and advice on working from home are unlikely to be lifted on June 21 amid concern over the Indian variant.

England’s R-rate rose again on Friday and is now between 1.2 and 1.4, the highest number since January.

The R rate represents the average number of people each Covid positive person goes on to infect.

The latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) also show that 42,323 cases of the Delta variant first identified in India have been confirmed in the UK, up by 29,892 from last week.

PHE estimates the variant is roughly 60 per cent more spreadable than the previously dominant Alpha variant, first identified in Kent, and could make people more seriously ill.

Chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus, Layla Moran, said the figures should “set alarm bells ringing in Government”.

The Lib Dem MP added: “These figures should set alarm bells ringing in Government as we approach June 21.

“The Government must immediately explain to the public whether this exponential growth suggests the country is in line for a severe third wave, and if so what it is doing to prevent this.”

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