U.K.’s Johnson Warns Covid Cases Rising Before Lockdown Decision

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a warning about rising coronavirus infections, after daily cases increased by more than 7,000 less than a week before he is due to decide whether to further ease lockdown rules.

Ministers and officials will assess how much the vaccine rollout “has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage,” Johnson told broadcasters on Wednesday. “There are arguments being made one way or the other, but we’ll be driven by the data.”

His comments signaled the depth of concern at the heart of government over a recent increase in Covid-19 cases across the country, driven by the highly transmissible delta variant first identified in India. The government deployed military personnel to northern England this week to tackle outbreaks.

A further 7,540 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported Wednesday, the most since late February, while the number of patients in hospitals -- another closely watched variable -- exceeded 1,000 for the first time since May 12.

“What everyone can see very clearly is cases are going up and in some places hospitalizations are going up,” Johnson said.

In Johnson’s roadmap for easing lockdown, June 21 would see nightclubs reopen, people able to queue at bars again and sports stadiums packed to capacity. An announcement will be made on June 14.

There remains a “risk of a substantial third wave” of Covid infections, according to Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London professor whose modeling was cited in the first lockdown in March 2020.

“It’s well within possibility that we could see another wave at least comparable in terms of hospitalizations as the second wave, though maybe not with such severe illness,” he told reporters in a briefing. “Almost certainly I think deaths probably will be lower -- the vaccines are having a highly protective effect, cases in hospital now are milder -- but it still could be quite worrying.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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