Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a delay in the final easing of coronavirus restrictions in England, scheduled for June 21.
Rising case numbers and hospital numbers have likely convinced ministers to postpone the final phase of the roadmap out of lockdown.
The delta variant of Covid-19, identified for the first time in India, is now responsible for up to 96% of new cases – with a 60% higher risk of transmission in the household compared to the alpha variant, which came from Kent last year.
And while the introduction of the vaccine is estimated to have averted more than 14,000 deaths in the elderly, just under half of all adults in England are not yet fully vaccinated.
The government has said the decision to lift the restrictions is based on four tests: whether the vaccine roll-out continues successfully; when evidence shows vaccines reduce hospital casualties and deaths in vaccinated individuals; that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital cases that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and that new forms of concern have not fundamentally changed the government’s risk assessment.
Based on these four tests, the latest data offers a mixed picture:
– Vaccine rollout
In England, around 34.7 million first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been delivered – this corresponds to 78.5% of the adult population.
In addition, 25.2 million second doses were given, which means 57.0% of people aged 18 and over are likely to be fully vaccinated.
The government has announced that it will offer both doses of the vaccine to all people aged 50 and over by June 21, and offer all adults a first vaccination by the end of July.
However, vaccine uptake varies between different age groups.
The latest available breakdown from NHS England, which shows vaccinations as of June 6, shows that 91.8% of people ages 80 and over have received both doses of the vaccine – suggesting 8.2%, or around one in 12 are not yet fully vaccinated.
An estimated 97.4% of 70 to 79 year olds are fully vaccinated, as are 90.8% of 60 to 69 year olds and 72.5% of 50 to 59 year olds.
There are also differences in utilization between the other groups.
It is estimated that only 68.7% of staff in nursing homes are fully vaccinated compared to 90.5% of residents in those homes.
About 88.8% of people classified as extremely clinically at risk have received both doses, but in London it is only 79.5%.
And 68.7% of 16 to 64 year olds classified as “at risk” or caregivers have received both doses of the vaccine, down 66.6% in North West England and 58.8% in London.
The numbers suggest that there are still some populations where the level of protection of both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine lags behind the rest of the country.
– Hospital cases and deaths
The introduction of the vaccine has been instrumental in reducing the number of Covid-19 hospital patients and deaths since the beginning of the year.
By May 2021, vaccines had averted around 42,000 hospital admissions and more than 14,000 deaths among older adults in England, according to the latest estimates from Public Health England.
These include 11,800 deaths among people aged 80 and over.
However, the number of hospital cases is increasing again.
A total of 158 hospitalizations of people with Covid-19 were reported in England as of June 9, according to NHS England.
This is an increase from 101 a week ago and the highest number since April 12th.
The seven-day average of admissions is currently 120, the highest since April 21.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England was 884 at 8 a.m. on June 11.
This is an increase from 805 a week earlier, while the 7-day average is currently 856 patients, the highest since May 16.
Two regions are now seeing significant increases in patient numbers: North West England, where the 7-day average is currently 246, the highest since April 24, and London, where the average is 253, the highest since May 19.
In other regions, however, there is still no similar trend to be seen – and in all areas the patient level is still well below the high of the second wave.
– Infection numbers and case numbers
The percentage of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in England has increased in recent weeks.
In the week ending June 5, roughly every 560 people in private households in England contracted Covid-19 – up from one in 640 the previous week, according to estimates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday.
It is the highest level since the week ended April 10th.
These numbers are still very low compared to the peak of the second wave in January; the latest estimate of one in 560 people corresponds to 0.2% of the population, well below the 2.1% estimated at the beginning of the year.
However, the downward trend in infections since January has been reversed, with the latest numbers continuing to show an increase, the ONS said.
The north west of England had the highest percentage of people of any region in England who likely tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending June 5 – around one in 200.
Southwest England had the lowest estimate – around 1920.
Meanwhile, the rate of newly confirmed cases of Covid-19 in England is now at its highest level in more than three months.
In the seven days ending June 9, a total of 67.0 cases were recorded per 100,000 people – the highest since March 2.
At the height of the second wave in early January, the rate hit 680.6 per 100,000.
Nine in ten parishes in England (90%) are currently seeing increases in rates.
This is the highest percentage since the beginning of the year.
The biggest gains are all in Lancashire, including Ribble Valley (up from 197.1 to 448.4 wk), Pendle (107.5 to 304.0) and Blackburn with Darwen, which continues to have the highest rate in England ( from 518.4 to 619.3).
However, other areas of the country are now seeing steep increases.
These include Calderdale (from 54.9 to 120.1) and Leeds (63.5 to 127.6), both in West Yorkshire; Newcastle upon Tyne (50.2 to 107.3); and Wandsworth (52.5 to 108.0) and Tower Hamlets (40.3 to 92.1) in London.
The delta variant of the coronavirus, which originated in India, is driving the increase in infections and the number of cases and is now responsible for up to 96% of new Covid-19 cases, Public Health England announced on Friday.
It is also believed to have a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared to the alpha variant, which was first identified in Kent late last year.
Delta case growth rates double in just four and a half days in some regions.
While this variant now accounts for the overwhelming majority of new cases of Covid-19, Public Health England said it was “encouraging” that the increase “has not yet been accompanied by a similar increase in hospital admissions,” adding that the vaccination program continues going to reduce the effects of the variant on populations who use both doses heavily.
Of 383 Delta variant cases in England as of June 7 that required an overnight stay in the emergency room, 251 (66%) were unvaccinated, 66 (17%) more than 21 days after the first vaccination dose, and 42 (11%) were more than 14 days after their second.
And of the 42 deaths in England as of June 7 of people confirmed to have the Delta variant of Covid-19 and who died within 28 days of a positive test, 23 were unvaccinated, seven more than 21 days after theirs first dose of vaccine, and 12 were more than 14 days after their second dose.