Boris Johnson Says Covid Data Is "Still Ambiguous" On Vaccine Protection As New Cases Continue To Rise
Boris Johnson said there is still nothing in the data that means the 21 June unlocking must be delayed (Sky News)
Boris Johnson said he was still unable to confirm the final stage of the roadmap will go ahead on June 21 saying the data on the Delta variant “is still ambiguous”.
The prime minister said there is still "nothing in the data at the moment that means we cannot go ahead with Step 4" of lifting coronavirus restrictions, but nor was he able to confirm that vaccination rates are now sufficient to prevent a surge in hospitalisation and death in the face of rising Covid cases.
In his first public comments in almost a week Johnson said “we just need to give it a little bit longer”. The latest data shows cases of Covid-19 have risen by more than 30% in a week.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is delivering a speech today hailing the achievements of those involved in the vaccine rollout after the NHS passed the landmark of giving a first dose to 75% of all UK adults.
Yesterday the government reported zero deaths from Covid for the first time since the pandemic began, prompting Conservative MPs to urge Johnson not to delay the further removal of measures.
Speaking in Downing Street this lunchtime the PM said: "I can see nothing in the data at the moment that means we can't go ahead with step four of the opening on 21 June.
"But we've got to be so cautious because there's no question the ONS (Office for National Statistics) data of infection rates is showing an increase.
"We always knew that was going to happen. Don't forget we always said the unlocking steps that we've take would lead to increases in infection.
"What we need to work out is to what extent the vaccination programme has protected enough of us – particularly the elderly and vulnerable – against a new surge.”He added: "There, I'm afraid, the data is just still ambiguous and so every day we're having long sessions where we're interrogating all the data, we're looking at all the various models.
"And the best the scientists can say at the moment, in their guidance to us, is that we just need to give it a little bit longer.”
Testing is being stepped up in Blackburn with Darwen as the East Lancashire borough has recently overtaken Bolton as England's top Covid hotspot, with an infection rate of 436.2 cases per 100,000 people, with 653 new cases in the seven days to 28 May.
People without symptoms who live, work or study in areas with BB1 and BB2 postcodes are being asked to take a PCR test at one of five new mobile testing units, while teams are also going door-to-door with testing kits.
Local director of public health, Professor Dominic Harrison, said: "We think that Blackburn with Darwen is around seven to 10 days behind Bolton in terms of rising rates, so it's encouraging to see their infection rate starting to decline.
"With all of the engagement work and surge testing that we are doing in the areas of Blackburn where we first identified cases of the Variant of Concern, we are hopeful that in the next week or so we can take control of our case rates too.”