Covid-19: UK’s data encouraging, says government adviser

The UK’s latest coronavirus data looks encouraging, a government adviser has said, amid a debate over whether to end restrictions in England on 21 June.

Sir John Bell, part of the government’s vaccine taskforce, said there needed to be “balance” to the discussion.

“If we scamper down a rabbit hole every time we see a new variant we are going to spend a long time huddled away.”

On Tuesday the UK announced zero Covid deaths for the first time since the pandemic began.

However, there has been concern over a small rise in cases recently linked to the spread of the more transmissible variant first identified in India, now known as Delta.

This has led to some leading scientists to suggest a delay to the last stage of the government’s roadmap in England for lifting lockdown, which would remove all legal limits on how many people you can meet.

A final decision on whether restrictions will be relaxed will be reached on 14 June.

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“We do need to keep a bit of balance to the discussion and keep our eyes
on the serious disease that we are trying to prevent.”

Sir John, regius professor of medicine at University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK’s “numbers don’t look too intimidating” and he was “encouraged” by what he saw.

However, he said the government was taking “a wise approach” in being cautious ahead of making its decision.

“I do think we need to keep our eye on hospitalisations, serious disease and deaths which is really what we are trying to manage,” he said.

“We do need to keep a bit of balance to the discussion and keep our eyes on the serious disease that we are trying to prevent.”

Downing Street reiterated on Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had seen nothing in the data to suggest the plan would need to be postponed.

The timetable for relaxing Covid measures varies across the UK.

In Wales, the health minister has said the easing of restrictions – due to be reviewed on Thursday – could be affected by a “very serious” cluster of the Delta variant in Conwy county.

It comes a day after the relaxing of measures in Scotland was paused for millions of people in areas where cases have been rising.

In Northern Ireland, some restrictions were lifted on 24 May – the next review is due on 10 June.


BBC graph showing cases rising slowly in the UK


The UK has now reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections for seven days in a row, but hospital admissions remain below 1,000 – compared to nearly 40,000 during January’s peak.

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of weekly Covid deaths continued to fall in the week ending 21 May.

The number of deaths registered that week involving Covid was 115 – 49 fewer than the previous week and the fourth lowest announced in any week since the first lockdown.

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