- The UK prime minister announced plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19.
- He said the country had to accept that there would be more COVID-19 deaths to come.
- Amid the vaccine rollout, fewer deaths have been linked to the latest surge in UK cases.
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said the country must reconcile itself to more COVID-19 deaths as the government prepared to lift nearly all restrictions in England meant to slow the spread of the disease.
Johnson told a press conference the country could soon be recording 50,000 new cases a day amid a new surge in infections from the Delta variant but the effectiveness of the country’s vaccination program meant that remaining restrictions in England could be lifted on July 19 anyway.
“We’re seeing rising hospital admissions, and we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID,” he said. “In these circumstances we must take a careful and a balanced decision.”
He added: “And there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”
Though specifics have varied slightly between the nations of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the UK broadly has had numerous monthslong lockdowns and still has lingering social-distancing rules and mask mandates in place.
If lifting restrictions is delayed further, he said, “we run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage, in the cold months, or again putting everything off to next year.”
He said that by July 19, every adult in the UK would have been offered a vaccine shot and two-thirds of adults would have received two doses.
He said that in relaxing restrictions, the likelihood of further deaths from COVID-19 had to be balanced against the effects of continued restrictions.
“We have to balance the risks of the disease and of continuing with legal restrictions, with their impact on people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said.
Under the new plan, restrictions including compulsory mask rules for public spaces indoors, social-distancing measures, and orders to work from home where possible will no longer apply.
Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical advisor, said Monday that scientific projections indicated that the lifting of restrictions could quickly lead to more hospitalizations, but that the numbers would most likely peak before they got as high as January’s surge.
Studies have shown that vaccinations can be effective at preventing severe illness from the Delta variant.
Data from the UK published last month found that of those who were fully vaccinated who caught the Delta variant, a relatively small proportion died, and almost all were over the age of 50.