U.K. Sends Military to Covid Hotspots to Help Tackle Variant
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. sent military personnel to hotspots in northern England to help tackle the highly transmissible delta variant of coronavirus, which is fueling a rise in cases just as ministers face a crunch decision over whether to ease lift remaining lockdown restrictions on June 21.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a “strengthened package of support” in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, including more testing and door-to-door visits to encourage vaccine take-up. Residents were advised to minimize travel, though officials insisted it’s not a local lockdown.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham urged the government to send the region more vaccine doses.
The move highlights the deep concern in government about the spread of the delta variant, which was first identified in India, and its potential impact on coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is weighing whether to ease England’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions as planned on June 21, with an announcement due on June 14. Ministers have said no decisions have yet been made on whether to push the date back a few weeks until more people receive two vaccine doses.
Easing the rules would allow nightclubs to reopen, sports stadiums to fill to capacity, queuing for drinks in bars, and large weddings and conferences to resume. Johnson is under pressure from businesses and Conservative Party colleagues to stick to the date they have dubbed “Freedom Day.”
But the latest data is heading in the wrong direction for the government. A further 6,048 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported on Tuesday, up from 5,238 last week. NHS England data showed there were 879 coronavirus patients in hospitals, up from 776 in a week.
In Parliament, Hancock said “conclusive” data on the effectiveness of vaccines against the delta variant would be available in the next “couple of weeks.”
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