Reuters reports that the directive issued by the British government in February initially provided for the lifting of social restrictions in the United Kingdom “at the earliest” on June 21. However, the detection of the Delta variant changed these plans.
The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, quickly became the dominant strain in the UK. Health experts believe the strain may be 60% more infectious than previous dominant strains of the coronavirus.
Public health experts have warned that the Delta variant is likely to become the dominant strain in the United States as well, possibly endangering areas of the country where vaccination rates have remained low.
Reuters notes that around 56% of the UK’s adult population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Johnson has so far refused to deny suggestions that lifting the restrictions could be delayed, Reuters notes. Instead, he said there was “serious concern” about increasing rates of infection and hospitalizations.
The government stressed that any restrictions, if any, would be lifted, the action would be irreversible, causing officials to be very careful moving forward.
“We continue to review the data, no final decisions have been made and a good time to let everyone know what we’re going to do with it… June 21 is tomorrow,” told reporters on Sunday after the end of the summit of the Group of Seven.
“This is when we will publish all the information so that everyone can see it together,” he added.
In May, the UK government released relaxed guidelines on COVID-19, easing some restrictions in the country. Outdoor and indoor assembly limits have been widened; indoor entertainment venues have been cleared to open with COVID-19 security measures in place; Hospitality businesses and indoor restaurants were allowed to reopen and live performances were allowed to resume.