The UK on Saturday recorded its newest coronavirus infections since early February as the National Health Service launched a “take a hit” initiative to further increase vaccination rates.
Government figures showed another 18,270 people tested positive for the virus across the UK, the highest daily number since 5 February. Over the past week, nearly 100,000 have tested positive, a 50% increase over the previous week. This has raised questions about whether the blocking restrictions will end as planned.
Daily cases have risen quite sharply in recent weeks after hovering around 2,000. The delta variant, which was first identified in India and is considered by government scientists to be 40% to 80% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain, accounts for almost all new cases in the UK.
Most of the new confirmed cases belong to younger age groups who have not yet received vaccines against COVID-19. The latest rise came when hundreds of accessible vaccination sites, including stadiums and shopping malls, opened in England over the weekend to try to increase the number of vaccines, especially among younger age groups.
“This is a phenomenal success and it ‘s great to see so many young people advancing by their blows, doing everything possible to protect themselves and their loved ones, ”Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said.
The spread of the variant altered the Conservative government’s plans to remove all remaining restrictions on social contact in England this week. The plan is to lift these restrictions on July 19, but whether it will do so may largely depend on whether the deployment of the vaccine has created a firewall that protects the most vulnerable. The other parts of the United Kingdom — Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — follow similar plans.
The hope is that the link between infections and people who need hospitalization and later die will be broken due to the rapid deployment of vaccines. As of Saturday, almost two-thirds of the UK population has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 48% have had two.
Recent analyzes by Public Health England showed that two doses of the main vaccines used by the UK are highly effective against delta variant hospitalization: 96% in the case of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 92% for the AstraZeneca jab.
Although the number of people in hospitals and dying has been increasing in recent weeks, they have not increased at the same rate as infections. On Saturday, the government said another 227 people had been hospitalized, bringing the total to 1,505, well below the 40,000 levels recorded earlier this year during the peak of a second rise. Virus-related deaths also remained relatively low, at 23, bringing the total death toll to 128,089.
Concerns about vaccines were heard on Saturday as thousands of anti-blockade protesters marched through central London. Some even threw tennis balls on Downing Street, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has his office and residence. “Shame,” some sang.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned after breaking the rules of social distancing with an assistant who allegedly had an affair. The tabloid Sun newspaper had published images to show married Hancock and senior aide Gina Coladangelo kissing in a Department of Health office.
In a letter to Johnson, Hancock said the government “owes it to the people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we let them down.”
Johnson had faced widespread calls to fire Hancock, who had apologized for violating the rules of social distancing. Coladangelo has been a friend of Hancock’s since his days together at Oxford University and last year was appointed a member of his department.
The Sun last Friday also released a video of the hug, which had motivated the main opposition Labor party to consider its position “hopelessly unsustainable”. Some conservative lawmakers had also asked Hancock to quit because he did not practice what he preached during the pandemic.
“The last thing I want is for my private life to distract attention from the single focus that is leading us out of this crisis,” Hancock said in his resignation letter.
“I want to reiterate my apologies for breaking the guidelines and apologize to my family and loved ones for putting them into practice,” he said. “Right now I also need to (be) with my kids.”
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Citation: UK virus cases peaked since Feb. 5 amid “catch once” (2021, June 26), retrieved June 26, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/ 2021-06-uk-virus-cases-highest-feb. html
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