Four-week delay to England’s lockdown easing expected as Leeds Covid rate up 88% in week

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Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a delay to the final lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England - with the Covid case rate in Leeds surging by almost 90% in one week.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce that the road map easing earmarked for June 21 will be delayed for four weeks to July 19.

He will hold a Downing Street press conference at 6pm, accompanied by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

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The announcement means that limits on numbers for sports events, pubs and cinemas are likely to remain in place, nightclubs will stay closed and people will be encouraged to keep up social distancing and working from home.

Four-week delay to England’s lockdown easing expected - as Leeds Covid rate up 88% in weekFour-week delay to England’s lockdown easing expected - as Leeds Covid rate up 88% in week
Four-week delay to England’s lockdown easing expected - as Leeds Covid rate up 88% in week

This is a Covid case rate of 113.2 - people with at least one positive COVID-19 test result, either lab-reported or lateral flow device (England only) per 100,000 population in the rolling 7-day period.

The figures show an 88.7% increase from the previous seven day recording.

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Percentage changes are calculated by comparing to the previous non-overlapping 7-day period.

Leading Leeds GP Dr Richard Vautrey said this was a “critical stage of the pandemic” and called for more time to complete the vaccination programme before all restrictions are lifted.

He said: "It is imperative that we follow the data. That’s what the Government has said all along and what they must do.

"We have to recognise that we are in a critical stage of the pandemic where the Delta variant is increasing.

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"And what we can ill-afford to do is give that greater opportunity to spread by reducing some of the restrictions on social distancing and wearing masks which would put more and more people, who have yet to be vaccinated, at risk."

Health minister Edward Argar said that if the June 21 lockdown easing was delayed for one month, another 10 million second coronavirus vaccine doses could be given across the UK.

He told Sky News that while the number of people in hospital has been “creeping up a bit”, vaccination meant “we are seeing that severing of the link between the disease and hospitalisations and death.”

Mr Argar added: “I think that on that basis, everyone will recognise that there comes a point where we do have to live with this disease and recognise that you cannot go for a zero Covid approach, you have to live with it, and vaccination is the key to that.

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“So I think once we have got those second doses in people’s arms, once we have got that level of protection up to around that 81%, then I think people will be more comfortable with it.”

Over the weekend, former minister Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, said any postponement would be a “political choice”.

He warned that if the unlocking did not go ahead as planned, restrictions could carry on through the autumn and into the winter as other respiratory infections picked up.

“Variants and mutations will appear for the rest of time,” he said.

“We have to learn to live with it.

“If our very effective vaccines cannot deliver us freedom from restrictions, then nothing ever will.”