Lockdown easing: Decision on June 21 today – What does data say? 4 key tests to watch for

Redwood: ‘I don’t think PM has come to a conclusion’ on lockdown

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Step 4 of the Prime Minister’s roadmap plan would see all legal limits on social contact removed, nightclubs reopened and the capacity limits on events and performances lifted. But before further lockdown measures can be eased, Boris Johnson must decide whether the data supports it. Here is how the data looks currently in respect to the Government’s four tests for easing lockdown.

Test 1: The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully

The UK’s vaccination programme has been incredibly successful to date, with 78.9 percent of the population in receipt of a first vaccine dose as of June 12.

More than half of the population (56.6 percent) of the population has also received a second vaccine dose and is therefore fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

People aged 25 and over are now eligible to book their vaccinations in England and with swathes of the population already vaccinated, it could be argued this test has been met for easing the next stage of lockdown.

However, with millions of younger people not vaccinated, it could be argued a complete unlocking risks a surge of infections and hospitalisations.

The Government may wish to wait until all adults have some protection from a vaccine, or until people in the top nine priority groups have all received their second vaccine dose, before easing measures further.

Test 2: Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

Hospitalisations are increasing in some areas and in the seven days leading up to June 13, 64 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test – a rise of 8.5 percent compared to the previous week.

Of those who have been admitted to hospital in recent weeks with COVID-19, the number of people admitted who had received two vaccine doses has been relatively small in comparison to those who have had no vaccines or only one dose.

But Public Health England data from last week showed a third of A&E Covid patients infected with the Delta variant had received at least one jab.

Of the 1,234 people who attended emergency units in England with the Delta variant up to June 7, 825 were not vaccinated – the equivalent of 67 percent of the patients.

There were 220 people, or 18 percent, that were admitted to hospital more than 21 days after their first dose of vaccine.

Of the people who attended hospital, 83 people, or seven percent, attended more than 14 days after their second jab.

The data currently suggests that although vaccinations are helping significantly to reduce the risk of hospitalisations and deaths, more people need to receive two vaccine doses to reduce the risk of hospitalisations and deaths even further.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show over the weekend: “We have weakened the link between transmission of the virus and hospitalisation, but the acid test is have we broken the link?”

“That’s the crux of it … We’re looking at the data all of the time.

“The race we’re in is to get everyone up to two doses [of vaccine] because that maximises the effectiveness both of the risk of harm to people and cutting the transmission.”

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Health minister Edward Argar also said on Monday more people need to receive their second Covid vaccines in order to increase people’s protection from the virus.

He told Sky News: “We are seeing some really positive news on that, although with the Delta variant we are seeing the numbers in hospital creeping up a bit, I think they were just over 1,000 at the weekend.

“But when you look back, it was something like 38,000 at the peak in January.

“So we are seeing that severing of the link between the disease and hospitalisations and death.

“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.

“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.”

More data may be necessary to definitively say if the evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.

So in this case, this test may not have been met and the Government may delay the easing of Step 4 until more people are fully vaccinated.

Test 3: Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

The latest Government data provided on June 8 showed 187 people were admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

In the seven days up to June 8, 1,008 people had been admitted to hospital, a rise of 15.2 percent week on week.

The Prime Minister acknowledged ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall that in some areas of the country, hospitalisations have increased recently.

He said last week: “What everybody can see very clearly is that cases are going up and, in some places, hospitalisations are going up.

“What we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.”

As infection rates have risen 49.3 percent week on week, with 50,017 new cases recorded over the seven days to June 13, it could be argued infection rates are posing a risk of a surge in hospitalisations.

If infection rates continue to rise and the number of hospitalisations also increases, it could be argued the surge would put unsustainable pressure on the healthcare service, meaning this test may not have been met based on the current data.

Test 4: Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern

Data revealed last week by Public Health England (PHE) revealed that more than 90 percent of new Covid cases in the UK have been linked to the Delta variant first identified in India.

The variant is thought to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent.

On Sunday, June 13, 7,490 new Covid cases were recorded and in the seven days up to June 13, 50,017 Covid cases were reported in the UK.

Week on week, Covid cases in the UK dramatically increased by 49.3 percent in the week up to June 13.

Speaking to Sky News last week, Mr Johnson acknowledged the new variant is a matter of “serious, serious concern”.

He said: “Now we don’t know to what extent that exactly is going to feed through into extra mortality but, clearly it’s a matter of serious, serious concern.”

He added: “Some of the data is still open to question but we will be making an announcement on Monday in all the detail you could want.”

Until the data is clearer on whether the Delta variant poses a bigger risk of death, the Government may decide this test has not been met yet based on the data available.

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