England’s chief physician Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance are said to have given ministers a “downbeat” update on the state of the coronavirus in Great Britain.
Yesterday’s briefing could mean the June 21 lockdown being lifted will be delayed.
That would mean easing – like approving major events and reopening nightclubs – would not go as planned.
Reports say the final step in the government’s roadmap could be delayed by two weeks, with the Times saying ministers will receive a “downbeat” briefing on the latest data Monday from Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance to have.
The Times reports that it raised concerns about the transmission rate of new strains of Covid, including the Delta variant (first identified in India), and that vaccinations did not offer 100 percent protection.
A cabinet source reportedly said it anticipated a delay of “between two weeks and a month” and that Chris Whitty and Sir Vallance had reservations about the schedule.
“They reiterated that the vaccine does not offer one hundred percent protection and that there are real concerns about the portability of the new variants,” the source said.
“I think you have a delay of between two weeks and a month. As long as we have everything fully open by the school holidays, I think the political damage will not be too great. “
Another cabinet source described the mood in Whitehall as a “downbeat” and one said the delay was useful to avoid “confusion” on the news.
Ministers are said to take the view that the easing of restrictions may need to be delayed to ensure that everyone over the age of 50 is protected.
Mr Hancock said a decision to move to Step 4 will be delayed as long as possible, with a final announcement next Monday – a week before changes could go into effect.
Downing Street said there was “nothing in the data” suggesting a delay would be needed.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding June 21, the health minister said he was confident that “one day freedom will return,” with the latest data suggesting vaccines are protecting people from the Delta variant first identified in India.
And as the vaccination program entered its final stages – the last cohort on the vaccine priority list at under 30 – the NHS described the six-month anniversary as a “turning point”.
Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England, said: “It is remarkable that just six months after that first stab in Coventry in December – Maggie Keenan got it, remember – we are now three quarters of the adult population with hers first dose and vaccinated more than half with the second dose.
“This is really an enormous achievement and of course the vaccine program is our way out of this pandemic.
On June 6th, England delivered 23,710,646 second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, meaning 53.6% of the adult population are fully vaccinated, with 76.4% of adults receiving a vaccination.
In Wales, 49.5% of the adult population are fully vaccinated, with 86.5% of adults having a first vaccination, while in Scotland 50.8% of adults are fully vaccinated and 76.4% of adults have received a first dose .
The equivalent of 48.9% of Northern Ireland’s adult population is fully vaccinated, while 75.1% of adults have received a first dose.
All adults have already been asked to get their vaccine in Northern Ireland and most of Wales, while people aged 18-29 in Scotland have been asked to register for their vaccination, with appointments starting in mid-June.
Mr. Hancock said the Delta variant “tightened the race between the virus and these vaccination efforts,” but the vaccine broke the previously “rock-solid” link between infection and hospital admissions.
The variant is believed to be 40% more transmissible than the alpha variant, which was first seen in Kent and swept across the UK during the Winter Summit.
As of June 3, of 12,383 Delta variant cases, 464 had been presented to the emergency room and 126 people had been hospitalized.
Of those approved, 83 were unvaccinated, 28 had received one dose, and three had received both doses of the vaccine, Hancock said.
The spread of the delta variant has caused cases to increase in almost all parts of North West England, London and Scotland.
The rise in rates has yet to be reflected by a steady rise in hospital cases. Latest data shows the numbers have increased slightly, with the seven-day average for patients in the hospital hitting 912 on June 3 – the highest since May 26.
Almost three-quarters of the UK’s local areas (283 out of 380) saw their Covid-19 case rates rise weekly for the seven days leading up to June 2, the highest percentage since January 6.
Downing Street said the dates that emerge next week will be “crucial” in deciding whether England’s coronavirus legal restrictions can end on June 21 as hoped.