Experts continue to warn of dangers of ending coronavirus restrictions on 19 July

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High levels of coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccination rates could “challenge the virus” to mutate into variants against which the jab is less effective, a government advisor has warned. It comes amid fears it “would be dangerous” to return to life as normal on 19 July.

Dr Mike Tildesley is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) government advisory panel. He told Times Radio that “there is a risk” with the planned 19 July reopening. The government is expected to lift the vast majority of remaining coronavirus restrictions on this date.

‘Frankly, that would be dangerous’

Meanwhile, cases continue to rise. And Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said deaths were beginning to rise again too.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We’ve only just heard in this bulletin about the rising numbers of cases, the rising numbers of people requiring hospital treatment, in intensive care and sadly deaths are starting to rise again, too.

There seems to be a misapprehension that life will return to normal from then (19 July), and that we can throw away all the precautions, and frankly, that would be dangerous.

The rate of new coronavirus cases in most areas of England is now back at levels last seen during the winter.

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Patient numbers have risen to levels last seen around April.

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK
(PA Graphics)

And there has been an increase in the average number reported each day of people in England who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Risks

Tilldesley urged people to ensure they get their second dose of vaccine due to the “much higher” levels of protection it provides against the Delta variant.

He said the risk “should decrease as we go through August and we get more people vaccinated”.

But he added:

But still, there is a risk with July 19 in terms of exposing more people to infection as a result of further reopening.

He warned:

Of course the more cases you have, particularly with high levels of vaccine protection, that does then kind of challenge the virus a little bit more and gives more potential for it to mutate into a form where the vaccines are less effective.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said in a statement:

There is little doubt that things will get worse before they get better.

Adults who have received Covid-19 vaccine
(PA Graphics)

‘Removing the batteries from the smoke alarm’

Prof Stokes-Lampard told Today she had been “profoundly concerned” over restrictions lifting.

Warning of the pressures already faced by medical staff, she added:

It feels in hospitals and GP surgeries as like the middle of winter in terms of how busy we are, rather than July, which would normally see a very low number of infections.

No 10 suggested on 9 July that NHS staff could be made exempt from self-isolation if they come into contact with an infected person. This is in order to help workforce levels.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said:

The NHS is in crisis as Covid admissions climb, cancer treatments delayed, waiting times increase and pressures intensify.

Sajid Javid has no plan to support NHS staff through the summer. Their only response is to talk about removing the batteries from the smoke alarm by watering down the NHS app and looking at ID cards for pubs.

Boris Johnson’s recklessness in throwing all caution to the wind is creating a summer of chaos.

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