Top doctors have warned the government to delay the full easing of lockdown due to ‘rapidly rising Covid cases’.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said the June 21 ‘Freedom Day’ should not go ahead until more people have had both doses of a Covid jab.
The warning comes after the UK recorded the highest number of daily Covid cases since February, with the number of new variant infections tripling in a week.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA Council said: ‘The UK’s vaccination programme has been a tremendous success and this, together with the hard work and sacrifices of so many, and measures such as social distancing and mask wearing, has helped us come a long way in our fight against this terrible virus.
‘However, case numbers are now rising rapidly, and we know that those who are unvaccinated or have had only one dose of the vaccine remain vulnerable to getting the virus.
‘The best protection is only achieved at about two weeks after the second dose, particularly with the Delta variant, and we will not have enough of the population properly protected by June 21.’
Around 54% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.
Over 25s were invited to book their appointments this week, but many younger people are still not eligible.
Dr Nagpaul said there is a ‘huge risk’ that relaxing all restrictions to soon will undo the results of the vaccine rollout and lead to a surge of infections.
He said: ‘It’s not just about the number of hospitalisations, but also the risk to the health of large numbers of younger people, who can suffer long-term symptoms affecting their lives and ability to work.’
He highlighted that the current data and evidence shows that ‘ending restrictions in just over a week would not meet the government’s own four tests’.
He added: ‘It is vital that the Prime Minister honours his own commitment to the population on how to safeguard the health of the nation.’
Another 8,125 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours – the highest daily figure since late February.
The latest government data is a jump from the 7,393 cases on Thursday and 6,238 last Friday.
Figures show there were also 17 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
Meanwhile, 201,607 more people have received their first dose of a vaccine while 308,038 received their second jab.
The UK has one of the most successful vaccination rollouts in the world.
As of Friday, 41 million people have had a first dose and nearly 30 million people have had a second dose.
This week saw all over 25s invited to book an appointment.
But despite vast swathes of the population being vaccinated, there are fears the Indian variant could derail the success if we exit lockdown too soon.
Public Health England (PHE) said that as of Wednesday, the UK has seen 42,323 confirmed cases of the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India, up 29,892 from 12,431 a week ago, and an increase of 240%.
The India variant has a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared to the previously-dominant Kent strain.
The increase in cases has not yet translated into a similar increase in hospitalisations. However, research shows people are more protected from the India strain with two doses of the vaccine compared to one.
He told a media briefing that data compiled by a SPI-M, which is a subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests we are facing a third wave.
Boris Johnson is due to make a decision on Monday on whether England can go ahead with full reopening on June 21.
Reports have suggested he may take a mix and match approach, allowing big weddings to go ahead but forcing night clubs to stay shut.
Asked if delaying the road map date would make a difference, Prof Ferguson said: ‘Yes, because it allows more people to get second doses.’
He said efficacy for the second dose against the variant first identified in India was higher than after one dose.
He said any third wave of cases ‘will translate, by definition, into some number of hospitalisations and deaths’ but added that it is ‘harder to pin down quite how significant the latter will be at the current time’.
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