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LONDON – Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay until the UK lockdown ends as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in parts of the country.
“It makes sense to wait a little longer,” said the Prime Minister at a press conference on Downing Street after his return from the NATO summit in Brussels.
“We can’t just get rid of the coronavirus, we have to learn to live with it,” he added. “Even if the link between infection and hospitalization has been weakened, it has not been severed.”
“Now is the time to take it easy,” he said, giving the NHS time to vaccinate more adult populations.
Remaining public health restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21, but government scientific advisors have raised concerns that further reopening would trigger a dangerous surge in hospital admissions.
Johnson insisted that he was “confident” that despite the initial breach of the government’s planned roadmap for a full relaxation of the rules, there would be no further delays.
The government will also shorten the interval between vaccine doses by more than 40 years, amid concerns that a single vaccination will not provide adequate protection.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offers 92 percent protection, according to a new analysis by Public Health England.
Data suggests the Delta variant, first discovered in India, is between 40 percent and 80 percent more transmissible than previous forms of the virus, and infections are doubling every week in a third of countries.
The Prime Minister decided on an exception for weddings that doesn’t limit the number of guests as long as there is social distancing and table service indoors.
There are currently no plans to reconsider business support as the vacation program is set to expire before it expires in September.
Pilots with major events will continue, the prime minister’s spokesman told journalists, adding that participation in the Euro 2020 football tournament will not be affected by the suspension of the full reopening.
The government is expected to re-examine the data on July 5th and decide whether to proceed with the full four-week delay or possibly extend it.
Previously, Commons spokeswoman Lindsay Hoyle had furiously reprimanded Downing Street for holding a press conference on the changes without first informing MPs of the revised plans for the reopening plan.
Hoyle accused No. 10 of “raw riding” Parliament in a “totally unacceptable” manner and said he would seek a meeting with the Prime Minister.
According to a quick poll by YouGov, 71 percent of people support expanding COVID measures.
However, Johnson is already facing backlash from members of his own party who want to know what vaccination protection is considered safe in the general population.
A parliamentary clash is announced for later in the week when the government needs to get MPs’ approval for the extension of the existing rules, which would otherwise expire on June 30th.
The opposition Labor Party will support the extension despite its leader Keir Starmer criticizing the government’s “pathetic” border policies, which he believes have contributed to the rise in infections.
This article has been updated.