Scientists call to ‘delay June 21 freedoms by a few weeks’ to stop new Covid variant

1 June 2021, 10:33 | Updated: 1 June 2021, 10:34

Experts want to push back June 21 Freedom Day
Experts want to push back June 21 Freedom Day. Picture: PA Images
Naomi Bartram

By Naomi Bartram

June 21 freedoms ‘must be delayed by a few weeks', say scientists.

Scientists have been calling for the UK’s freedom day on June 21 to be delayed by a month.

According to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, Covid restrictions could totally end in England by the end of the month, with crowds allowed to gather again.

But with the spread of a new Indian variant of the virus, another leading Government scientific adviser has warned against the plans going ahead.

Restrictions are set to ease on June 21
Restrictions are set to ease on June 21. Picture: PA Images

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

He said while the vaccination programme is working, it is too early to drop our guard.

“Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this,” Professor Gupta said.

He continued: “As long as it’s clear to people this is not an unlimited extension of the lockdown but actually just a reassessment, that would be realistic.

“Because we didn’t plan for the 617.2 variant when the initial roadmap was made, and actually things have gone really well except for the fact that we have this new variant to complicate things.

“We must remember this is a virus that does adapt, and faced with vaccines it will eventually start to make mutations to avoid them even further, and then we could be in an even more precarious situation after that.”

There has been an increase of 42.9% in cases between May 24 and 30, compared to the previous seven days.

British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has also called on the government to rethink lifting the restrictions.

He said: “The Government must hold off making a final decision on whether lockdown is fully lifted on June 21 until latest data can be scientifically considered.

Boris Johnson is set to announce whether coronavirus restrictions will ease
Boris Johnson is set to announce whether coronavirus restrictions will ease. Picture: PA Images

“The Prime Minister had pledged he would be guided by ‘data not dates’, and it’s vital that he now honours this commitment.”

A cabinet minister added the government ‘can't rule out’ a delay to lockdown easing amid fears over the spread of the Indian variant.

Environment secretary George Justice told the BBC: “The Prime Minister has said all along that he is going to take this one step at a time and will only make the judgment on the next step, on June 21, about a week before that.

"I think he is excepted to say something in a couple of weeks' time on June 14.

"The rates are going up again slightly but from a low base and probably to be expected, given there are a significant number of younger people who are now out and mixing but haven't had the vaccine - I suppose that is to be expected.

"But the right thing to do in a couple of weeks' time is to assess that data before deciding what we can do."