The UK government should abandon plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions in mid-June to avoid a potential ‘wave’ of new cases, 2 scientists who advise officials say

Boris johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Getty
  • Two leading scientists are urging the UK government to postpone the date for lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The government’s plan is for all COVID-19 restrictions to be dropped on June 21.
  • The scientists warn of a potential “wave” in cases of the variant first found in India.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Scientists have warned the UK government that it should abandon its plans to lift all coronavirus restrictions in June, amid rising cases of the variant first found in India.

The government is set to lift restrictions on June 21. But scientists who advise the government are concerned about rising case numbers, and the potential for cases to further rise when people start mixing more.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program on Monday that although new cases are “relatively low,” there had been an “exponential growth in the number of new cases” triggered by the variant identified in India.

He said the government should postpone unlocking the country by “a few weeks.”

“All waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive … What we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave,” Gupta said.

The UK recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, according to government data. This is the fifth consecutive day with at least 3,000 new cases. Before that, the UK had not recorded 3,000 new daily cases since April 12.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, also warned about the lifting of restrictions, telling ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” on Monday that “it’s unfortunate that everyone’s got this particular date in their head.”

“What we need to do is understand how things are going and adjust accordingly. What we’ve done wrong in the past is left it too late and delayed making decisions, ultimately pushed them back and then ended up with large waves of infection,” he said.

The government can’t rule out extending restrictions, environment secretary George Eustice told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today program on Monday.

Eustice said the government had to take things “one step at a time.”

More than 39 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to government figures. Studied suggest Pfizer’s and AstraZeneca’s shots are highly effective against the variant first found in India, which makes up three quarters of all coronavirus cases in the UK, according to a Financial Times report.

The UK added another vaccine to its list on Friday when it approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine, securing 30 million doses.

“We have to make that judgement a couple of weeks before. It will only be by then that we will see the full impact of the latest easements we made on 17 May,” he said.

A final decision on whether restrictions will be lifted in the UK will be made a week before on June 14.