The data does not support extending lockdown beyond June 21

Lettice Bromovsky

June 11, 2021

75 per cent of adults in Britain have had their first dose of the vaccine. There are currently 258 pop-up vaccination centres across the UK and we’re jabbing an average of 150,000 people a day. On top of this, a record one million people under 30 signed up for vaccination appointments in one day alone. So why is the government still conflicted over ending restrictions on June 21?

Back in January, Matt Hancock told the Spectator that things could open up before the majority of the population had been vaccinated and yet, just three days ago, he proclaimed that the government was open to delaying the unlocking. The justification given for the roadmap’s sluggish timetable was that it would be both irreversible and provide “certainty over urgency”. Shifting the goal posts again is unconscionable.

The latest bone in the jaws of the media is the Delta (formerly known as Indian) variant. Articles on its virulence and transmissibility dominate headlines. Yet, the reality is that despite spikes in infections, hospitalisations are barely rising and deaths are at historic lows. We know there is a lag between infections and hospitalisation but if we continue to push our vaccination programme, as we are doing, we can diminish the potential impact of this. There will always be the threat of new variants arising; that is what viruses do. If the government delays opening on June 21, can we be sure it will only be for a few weeks? What happens when another variant arises?

On June 1, the UK recorded zero daily Covid deaths. Contrast this to the 450 people who sadly die every day from heart and circulatory disease, or the 400 lives per day cancer claims. Sure, these may not be transmissible illnesses but even set against other viruses this level of caution isn’t remotely considered. Public Health England estimates that on average 17,000 people die each year from flu in England alone, with a peak in 2014-2015 of 28,330. After a torrid year that has caused tens of thousands of fatalities and devastated the nation, our decisions makers need to urgently regain a sense of perspective and proportionality.

Progressing the vaccination programme should be the main focus for the government now. The speed of the rollout has made Global Britain a world leader. Our early start on securing vaccines was key, striking deals months ahead of the EU and securing more than enough vaccines to inoculate the entire population. The Pfizer vaccine is 95 per cent effective against symptoms and is estimated to have 88 per cent efficacy against the Delta (Indian) variant.

Hospitalisations and death rates are down. The UK will donate 100 million vaccines to countries struggling to contain the virus. At the G7 summit this week, the UK will urge world leaders to commit to vaccinating the world by 2022. If we judge this decision solely off the statistics, the “data not dates”, it is difficult to dispute that it is beyond the acceptable time to open up.

In January, Politico was reporting between 200,000 and 250,000 new cases a week. In the last week we’ve registered 38,679. Most of these infections are among the young and healthy, so chances of hospitalisation are low and death is highly unlikely. Data shows that even in April 2021 the highest mortality rate from Covid remained in those over 80.

For far too long the government has restricted our liberties and freedoms over who we see, where we see them, and where we travel. Boris should remain resolute against pressure to extend lockdown in face of fierce opposition. We have to begin to look forward to post-pandemic life. The vaccine will be, and is, our saviour. It’s time to open up in full and begin the long journey to economic recovery.

Author

Written by Lettice Bromovsky

Lettice is Editorial Intern at the Institute of Economic Affairs

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