UK’s plan to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on June 21 has been delayed due to the Delta variant of coronavirus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday confirmed a four-week delay to end all legal lockdown restrictions, saying the link between coronavirus infections and hospitalizations remains at concerning levels.

Despite the UK’s successful vaccination rollout, the prevalence of the Delta variant has convinced the Prime Minister and his government that the last and the fourth stage of the lockdown roadmap, dubbed “Freedom Day” for English citizens will now move to July 19. In the UK half of the adult population has received two doses.

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Johnson said it was sensible to wait a little longer, as a four-week gap will allow the government and National Health Service (NHS) extra time and few more crucial weeks because of the concerns around the Delta variant. The variant is growing in the UK at 7% week on week and the government fears if restrictions are fully lifted then it can cause infection rates to double in the country. 

Johnson also said that they will now accelerate giving second vaccinations to those most vulnerable. On Monday, Public Health England (PHE) reported that the two main vaccines used in the UK are highly effective against the variant. According to PHE, Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 92�fective against the variant after two doses whereas the Pfizer-Biotech shot gives 96%protection after two doses. 

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Boris Johnson said, “We must learn to live with it; vaccination greatly reduces risk… [but] even if the link between hospitalization and vaccination has weakened, it hasn’t been broken.” Now the UK is in a race against time to get vaccine shots over the next four weeks, government believes that it will achieve this by reducing the gap between the doses from 12 weeks to 8 weeks for people over the age of 40. People above 40 who had their first dose in mid-May will be offered a second shot by July 19 and everyone over 18 will have been offered their first dose by that date.

The UK recorded 7,490 new cases of COVID 19 and eight dates on Sunday. Scientists and health officials have called for a delay in lifting the COVID restrictions and also to allow the vaccination programme to gain further ground.