LONDON — Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to the end of lockdown in England as the Delta variant of coronavirus continues to spread rapidly through parts of the country.
The prime minister said “it is sensible to wait just a little longer” in a Downing Street press conference after returning from the NATO summit in Brussels.
“We cannot simply eliminate coronavirus, we must learn to live with it,” he added. “Even if the link between infection and hospitalization has been weakened, it has not been severed.”
“Now is the time to ease off the accelerator,” he said, to give more time for the NHS to vaccinate more of the adult population.
Remaining public health restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21, but the government’s scientific advisers have raised concerns that further reopening would trigger a dangerous rise in hospitalizations.
The government will also reduce the interval between vaccine doses for over 40s, amid concerns that a single jab does not provide sufficient protection.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offers 92 percent protection, according to new analysis by Public Health England.
Data suggests the Delta variant — which was first detected in India — is between 40 percent and 80 percent more transmissible than earlier forms of the virus, and in a third of the country infections are doubling every week.
The prime minister decided on an exemption for weddings, which will not have a limit on the number of guests as long as indoor venues observe social distancing and offer table service.
There are currently no plans to revisit support for businesses, with the furlough scheme due to taper off before coming to an end in September.