‘We’re close to end of Covid restrictions’, says UEA expert

People wear a mask as they leave a shop

Plans to lift restrictions could be scaled down, with social distancing and the wearing of face coverings set to continue. - Credit: PA

A Norfolk-based virus expert believes Covid-19 restrictions should soon end despite speculation that the planned ending of all limits on social contact will be pushed back.

A two-week delay to the June 21 final stage of the government's roadmap out of lockdown, in England,, is reportedly being considered after the number of people in the country with Covid-19 rose by 75pc.

Multiple reports have also suggested plans to lift restrictions could be scaled down, with social distancing and the wearing of face coverings set to continue.

It comes amid concerns that the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is driving new cases.

Covid social distancing sign

A two-week delay to the planned easing of restrictions in England on June 21 is reportedly being considered. - Credit: PA

The UK on Friday recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases - 6,238 - since late March, according to official figures.

Parts of Norfolk and Waveney have also seen rises, though numbers are only a small fraction of those seen in the first two Covid waves.

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school.

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. - Credit: Archant

Professor Paul Hunter, from University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said although cases were increasing the number of hospitalisations from people with the virus were not rising at the same rate.

He said: “We are not anywhere near as bad a position as we were back in December and January because, despite case numbers shooting up, the Indian variant has been doubling every week to 10 days since early April, hospitalisations have not been doing the same.

“They have been rising but not as much as you’d expect. In the seven day rolling mean in England, hospitalisations have increased about four per cent while cases have increased by 48pc. 

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“That puts us in a slightly freaky situation in terms of knowing what to do.” 

A two-week delay to the final stage of Boris Johnson's road map is reportedly being considered to accelerate second jabs for over-40s, moving from a 12 to eight-week gap between doses, echoing the practise that is already in place for over-50s.

People queue for coronavirus testing

Covid cases have increased driven by the Indian Delta variant, though hospital admissions are not rising at the same rate. - Credit: PA

Prof Hunter said he could “see the arguments on both sides” of a delay in further easing of restrictions.  

“Clearly there are issues with long Covid, but on the other hand it doesn’t look like it is going to be putting an acute pressure on the health service therefore we should go ahead,” he said.

“At some point we have to put all these restrictions behind us and I think we are quite close to that point now but I’d like another week's data to be sure.” 

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