Britain’s touted effort to control COVID-19 has met a series of setbacks as cases climb, a new variant spreads and questions swirl over the proficiency of the Secretary of Justice. Health.
For weeks the UK government has been praised for its measures to bring the pandemic under control and for rolling out a vaccination program that has successfully immunized 73% of adults with at least one vaccine so far. But the rapid spread of a variant first detected in India has raised fears that the pandemic is far from over and that some lockdown restrictions may remain in place.
The total number of cases of the variant, known as B.1.167.2, more than doubled last week to 6,959 on Thursday. Health officials have said the mutation now accounts for up to 75% of all new COVID-19 infections.
Coronavirus tracker: How many cases of COVID-19 are there in Canada and around the world? The latest maps and graphics
Vaccine Tracking in Canada: How Many Doses of COVID-19 Have Been Given So Far?
COVID-19 News: Updates and Essential Resources on the Pandemic
As a result of the variant, the number of daily infections peaked in six weeks. Britain reported 3,542 new infections on Thursday, a 20% increase from the week before. That’s a far cry from the 60,000 cases reported on certain days in January at the height of the epidemic, but the upward trend worried some health experts who noted that hospitalizations also rose 20% on Thursday to 826.
“If you look at the pure data [from Thursday], that sounds quite worrying, ”said Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency. Dr Harries told a press conference that one of the reasons for the increase in cases of the variant was a sharp increase in testing in hotspot regions, particularly the north-west of England. This uncovered infections and led to self-isolation to stop transmission. This strategy is showing positive results, she noted, and B.1.167.2 infections appear to be leveling off in some areas and declining in others.
” I think [the variant] is really, really fair at dawn at the moment. If we see cases increasing, we don’t yet know exactly if it is [the variant] take off or if it’s actually an increase because we actively detect them, and rightly so, then challenge those chains of transmissions, ”she said.
For now, Dr Harries and other officials remain convinced that vaccines are effective against B.1.167.2, but the best protection comes after two doses. So far, only 43% of adults in Britain have been fully vaccinated, leaving many people infected with the variant.
The growing workload has raised doubts as to whether the government can move forward with plans to further ease lockdown restrictions next month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was keen to lift almost all remaining measures, including the rules on mandatory face coverings, on June 21. But he acknowledged on Thursday that he might have to wait.
“As I have said on several occasions, I see nothing currently in the data to suggest that we need to deviate from the roadmap, but we may have to wait,” Mr Johnson said during a visit in an Essex hospital.
The growing controversy surrounding Health Secretary Matt Hancock is aggravating for Mr Johnson.
Mr Hancock was the subject of lightning attacks on Wednesday from Dominic Cummings, the former senior adviser to the Prime Minister who resigned last November. During a seven-hour parliamentary committee hearing, Mr Cummings said he had repeatedly urged Mr Johnson to fire Mr Hancock and added that then cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, who was the country’s top civil servant, had also lost faith in the Honesty of the Health Secretary last year.
“I have said on several occasions from February and March , if we do not fire the Secretary of State [Matt Hancock] … We are going to kill people and it will be a disaster, ”Cummings told the committee. Mr. Hancock “should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everyone Many times. “
Mr Cummings also said Mr Johnson was unfit to perform his duties and that the PM’s failings throughout the pandemic had cost tens of thousands of lives.
Mr Hancock dismissed the comments and told the House of Commons on Thursday that the government had done its best to deal with the crisis. “These allegations that have been made [Wednesday] are serious allegations and I welcome the opportunity to come to the House to officially state that these unfounded allegations of honesty are not true and that I have always been frank with people in public and in private, ”he said.
Mr Johnson also backed the Health Secretary and rejected Mr Cummings’ claims. “I think, if I may say so, that some of the comments I heard have nothing to do with reality,” he told reporters during the visit to the hospital. “At every step, we have been governed by a determination to protect life, save life and ensure that our [National Health Service] is not overwhelmed. And we followed the data and advice we received to the best of our ability.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update bulletins are written by The Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. register today.