Delay to Freedom Day on June 21 'only sensible thing to do', says MP
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Delaying the end of coronavirus restrictions is the "only sensible thing to do" in the wake of the growth of the new Delta variant, it has been argued.
June 21 is the final date in the government's roadmap out of the the Covid-19 lockdown imposed in January this year.
It would see most rules on social contact lifted - but the government said at the outset that every stage of the roadmap would be reviewed depending on infection rates and the vaccine roll-out.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is due to make an announcement on Monday, June 14 on the final stage of lockdown easing, with reports suggesting it could be delayed by a month.
Central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who has also worked on the frontline at an NHS hospital during the pandemic, said: "The evidence is clear the Indian variant is spreading quickly and has become the dominant strain in the UK."
Infection rates in Suffolk are much lower than the rest of the country, with seven-day rates in all local authorities in the county below 16 cases per 100,000 as of June 6.
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Babergh has the second lowest seven-day rate in England, with a rate of 4.3 cases per 100,000 people.
However, the situation is not the same in much of the country - particularly in the north-west of England, which has been hit hard by the Delta variant.
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In all, 27 local authorities have seven-day infection rates higher than 100 cases per 100,000 – seven of those being above 300.
West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock says the Delta variant now comprises 91% of infections.
Dr Poulter said that "people who are not vaccinated or who have received only one vaccination are particularly vulnerable".
He added: "At the moment, it is a race between the vaccine and this highly transmissible form of the virus.
"In the circumstances, retaining some restrictions for just a little longer seems to be the only sensible thing to do.
"I would urge everyone to make sure that both they and their families get vaccinated if they have not been already."
At the weekend, Mr Johnson acknowledged that the rise of the variant was a matter of “serious, serious concern”.
In order to ensure the final lockdown lifting was “irreversible”, he said that it may be necessary to give the vaccines “extra legs” in the race against the virus.
Braintree MP and Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said: “We always knew there would be a chance of mutations and variants – that’s why this unlocking process was a progressive one and that’s why we have had these decision points laid out.
“That’s why the government, the prime minister and our scientific advisers will be assessing the data and making decisions for the announcement on Monday.
“We will make decisions with regard to lockdown based on the most up-to-date information.”
What do you think? Should we delay 'freedom day' or go ahead with relaxing restrictions on June 21? Have your say by filling in our form on this article.