The UK is preparing to lift the last restrictions related to the fight against Covid-19 in three weeks. However, the announced date of June 21 is now debated in view of the upsurge in contamination due to the rise of the Indian variant.
The British, who were able to find the terraces a month and a half ago but also the dining rooms for a fortnight, or the stands of the stadiums, have their eyes riveted on June 21. Indeed, the government, establishing its deconfinement calendar very early on, had set the date for the lifting of the last restrictions, for example initiating the reopening of nightclubs.
But this horizon seems more and more uncertain and should even be blocked according to some scientists. The Indian variant is pushing the number of contaminations and hospitalizations upwards to the point of raising fears of a new wave of Covid-19 in a United Kingdom which believed itself out of the woods.
The first signs of a new wave
According to the official data available, there were 3383 new cases on Monday in the last 24 hours (an average increase of 944 when compared with the previous week). The Huffington Post notes that during the past week, the number of hospitalizations and positive cases has jumped by 20%, while remaining very low, the incidence rate of the virus often remaining under 30 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In France, for example, this indicator, which has also fallen significantly, has barely fallen below 100 nationally.
Anxious to put these figures in perspective, the infectious disease specialist Ravi Gupta, member of Sage (for “Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies”, an institution linked to the British government and equivalent to our Scientific Council) told the BBC on Monday: “Good sure that the numbers are still low. (…) What we are witnessing are the first signs of a wave that is starting to tremble “.
“It will probably take longer for this wave than previous ones to emerge due to our vaccination rates now quite high in the population, so there could be a false sense of security for a while, that’s it. that concerns us, ”he added.
Martin McKee, professor of public health at the London School of Hygienic and Tropical Medicine, has abounded in the press, as here with theIndian Express: “It looks a lot like a third wave”.
And the trend has been continuing for almost a month. It is the Indian variant, which has supplanted the local declination by its contagiousness, the English variant, itself already more contagious than the original strain, which carries what Ravi Gupta called an “exponential growth” of contaminations, representing the three quarters of new cases according to the same specialist at the BBC.
Seeing the phenomenon coming from afar, scientists wrote in a note completed on May 11 titled On the potential community transmission of B.1.617.2 (which designates the Indian variant, Editor’s note): “Faced with the elements of uncertainty, the risk of an overreaction seems minimal compared to the potential benefit of delaying a third wave until more people are vaccinated”.
The vaccine yes, but two doses
Monday evening, according to data compiled by data.gov.uk, there were 59% of Britons having received at least their first dose and 38.2% fully vaccinated. Because this is the good news: the vaccine seems effective against this variant, as it has been against the others … provided that it is completed because a single injection seems insufficient.
The work – posted on Twitter – of John Burn-Murdoch, journalist at Financial Times, shows that the Indian variant produces its greatest damage in the north-west of the country (in particular in Blackburn, Bolton, Rossendale, Bedford) and in the least vaccinated segments of the population.
“For example, we find that the explosion of cases in Bolton initially started from neighborhoods where the vaccination rate was relatively low. (…) The second thing to note and the first sign that the vaccine will fundamentally change the situation of this wave: contamination rates remain low in the older age groups, most often fully vaccinated, “he notes.
Towards a postponement of the last stage of deconfinement?
Officially, we are clinging to the course of lifting the last obstacles to social life on June 21. But the idea of postponing the last phase of deconfinement begins to infuse. On Sunday, Minister Nadhim Zahawi, Minister of Vaccination, refused to come forward on the issue of abandoning telework or the compulsory wearing of a mask at this time. The British government has, however, always stressed that the deconfinement agenda is likely to evolve according to the curves of the disease.
George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Environment, recalled the line, in a statement relayed by the Guardian: “The thing to do in a few weeks is to study the data before making a decision”. In this case, the decision will fall on June 14, just a week before the planned date, notes elsewhere the British daily.
Neither the deadline nor the idea of a change of plan is up to the actors most concerned. The British Pub and Brewers Association has called for businesses to be notified in advance in the event that June 21 is not the largest sesame opening their doors and then receive financial compensation.
The association militates especially for the maintenance of the initial ambitions of June 21, as Emma McClarkin, who directs it, slipped it to the Guardian: “June 21 is an absolutely crucial date for the recovery of the sector. The recovery will only begin with the lifting of the restrictions.”
Robin Verner BFMTV reporter