Covid-19: Hospital data key to 21 June lockdown end, says Raab

The decision on whether England can end all Covid restrictions on 21 June will depend on whether the link between infections and hospital admissions has been severed, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary told the BBC the government was examining real-time data before announcing its decision on Monday.

“We don’t want to yo-yo in and out of measures,” he said.

After one of the scientists advising the government warned the UK is facing a “substantial” third wave of infections, Mr Raab said: “The crucial thing that we set out in the four tests that we set at the outset of the road map is the link between transmission of the virus, and then the variants, and hospitalisations.”

He told the Andrew Marr Show the country has made “great progress in weakening the link”.

“The question is whether we have severed and broken it. We are looking at the data in real time,” Mr Raab said.

“The race we’re in is to get everyone as quickly as we can up to two doses,” he said, adding that this maximises the effectiveness in preventing serious illness and stopping transmission of the virus.

He stressed that the roadmap out of lockdown said that stage four – when all legal restrictions on social contact are due to be abolished – was due no earlier than 21 June.

“We said at the start we would be guided by the evidence,” he said. “We’ve been faithful to the roadmap and the strategy and the criteria.”

With 90% of infections in the UK now due to the Delta variant, first identified in India, Dr Jeffrey Barrett at the Wellcome Sanger Institute said a “major part” of why the UK is facing a growing wave of cases is because hundreds of infections were brought in from abroad in April.

But Mr Raab denied the government had acted too slowly to prevent the variant being introduced to the UK, saying: “We’ve got a system where we get flagged variants of concern and we take action when we get that advice.”

Prof Andrew Hayward from University College London, a member of the Sage group which advises the government, said ending all restrictions on 21 June could “fan the flames” of rising infections.

“I think it’s clear we will have a substantial third wave of infections, the really big question is how much that wave of infections is going to translate into hospitalisations,” he told the Andrew Marr Show.

He said the suggestion that the Delta variant was 60% more transmissible was “extremely worrying” and added there was still a “substantial chance” there could be a wave of hospital admissions that would put significant pressure on the NHS.

Chart showing infections trend

Infections in the UK are doubling every one or two weeks, depending on the region, Prof Hayward said. He said the UK is only “three or four doubling times” from reaching the same peak of infections as the second wave in January.

Labour’s Emily Thornberry said tomorrow’s decision about the 21 June reopening was “the last chance” for the government to follow the science and communicate clearly with the public.

She said: “This is the last push and we need to make sure it’s done properly. The weak link is government ministers not making decisions fast enough and not communicating them properly.”

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