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Too early to say whether June 21 lifting of restrictions will go ahead – British Minister

The link between Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths is being “severed” but it is too early to say whether the June 21 lifting of restrictions will go ahead, Matt Hancock said.

The Health Secretary told MPs that on Wednesday there were 3,180 new cases of coronavirus, which is “the highest since April 12”, but that vaccines were working.

He said it was “too early now to say, yet, whether we can take the full step four on June 21” but added that he “desperately” wants to.

Mr Hancock was appearing in the Commons to answer questions regarding former aide Dominic Cumming’s evidence on the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

The Health Secretary told MPs “this pandemic isn’t over yet”, adding: “Our vaccination programme has reached 73% of the adult population, but that means that more than a quarter still haven’t been jabbed… 43% of adults have had both jabs, but that means that more than half are yet to get the fullest possible protection that two jabs gives.

“Yesterday we saw 3,180 new cases of coronavirus, the highest since April 12, but thanks to the power of vaccination, in which I have always believed, the link from cases to hospitalisations and to deaths is being severed.”

He said around one in 10 people in hospital with Covid-19 in current “hotspots” have had both vaccines, but the vast majority have not which “gives us a high degree of confidence that the vaccine is highly effective.”

It comes after Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK locking down in March 2020, said the Indian variant was now “the dominant strain” in the UK and the full reopening of society on June 21 “hangs in the balance”.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Asked in the Commons by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt what measures could be taken to ensure June 21 – when all legal limits on social contact are due to be lifted – could go ahead, Mr Hancock said: “It is true that the Indian variant is spreading across the country, and estimates vary as to what proportion of the new cases each day are the variant first identified in India, which is more transmissible.”Now my assessment is that it is too early now to say, yet, whether we can take the full step four on June 21.

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