The last remaining coronavirus restrictions in England have been lifted, with no more rules on how many people can meet or attend events, nightclubs reopening, and ordering drinks at the bar allowed once more. But with the Delta variant spreading like wildfire in the UK, there is already speculation that another lockdown is just a matter of time.
Will there be another lockdown?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly said the unlocking of society would be “cautious but irreversible”.
But speaking ahead of Freedom Day, he backtracked, saying: “I hope that the roadmap is irreversible – we’ve always said that we hope that it will be irreversible – but in order to have an irreversible roadmap, we also said it’s got to be a cautious approach.”
While the Prime Minister appears to be leaving room for potential restrictions in future, his new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has insisted there won’t be another lockdown.
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Mr Javid said: “It’s going to be irreversible, there’s no going back. That’s why we want to be careful during that process.”
However, both Mr Johnson and Mr Javid have said that “contingency” plans will remain in place into the winter, in case new variants pose a serious risk.
Mr Javid said: “We will be keeping in place contingency measures, particularly for local authorities, the so-called No.3 regulations, at least until the end of September, in case those powers are needed in the case of a local breakout.
“Of course there’s no intention at this point that those powers will be used but we believe it is necessary to have powers in place just in case.”
What are the numbers showing?
Scientists and experts are beginning to encourage a focus on the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths over the case figures of coronavirus.
With over 68 percent of the adult population having received two doses of a vaccine, high case numbers do not necessarily translate to lots of pressure on the NHS.
Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t catch Covid, but it means it’s more likely to just be a manageable illness at home, like a cold.
The worry is when hospitalisations start to rise, as that means pressure on the NHS and the risk of more deaths.
The latest data from Public Health England shows that cases are spiking hugely, with a 43.3 percent increase over the past seven days alone.
Hospitalisations and deaths are on the increase too, though not at the same rate, with a 39.4 percent increase in both over the same period.
The figures are still enough to worry experts.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling ed to the first nationwide restrictions, has said it was “almost certain” that the UK would reach 100,000 cases and 1,000 hospital admissions per day with the big unlocking.
Prof Ferguson said the “best projections” were that the peak of this wave could occur between August and mid-September, and it would take around three weeks to know the impact of relaxing restrictions.
However, he said there may be “a need to slow the spread to some extent” if hospital admissions were to reach 2,000 or 3,000 per day”, but that maintaining figures of around 1,000 a day could be described as “success”.
He said: “It’s going to be a difficult summer for many reasons… I think case numbers are likely to be declining at least by late September, even in the worst-case scenario.
“Going into the winter, I think we will have quite a high degree of immunity against Covid, the real concerns are a resurgence of influenza, because we haven’t had any influenza for 18 months.”
He added that flu “could be, frankly, almost as damaging both for health and the health system, by December or January, as Covid has been this year”.