New Delta variant threatens to postpone England's Covid unlock

New Delta variant threatens to postpone England's Covid unlock

As England nears its stipulated 'Covid exit' date of June 21, the rapid rise in cases of the new Delta B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India, has put the authorities under a dilemma on whether to postpone the lifting of lockdown.

Though the rise in cases is more localised like in the areas of Bolton, Blackburn, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside, the fact that it is affecting the young adds to the worry.

The first case of the Delta variant was found in the Kent region in England. Experts say at least 60 per cent of the cases found in the United Kingdom are that of this new variant. This variant seems to be more resistant to the vaccine and more transmissible at the same time.

The government has advised minimal travel in such areas along with an increase in Covid testing and vaccination.

Dr Amit Gupta from Oxford University Hospital said, “There are certain hotspots where this variant has risen, and the government has responded two-fold. One by increasing the number of tests which is called surge testing and the other response has been to increase vaccination, especially in the younger groups.”

There are now pop-up vaccine centres to vaccinate the younger population. One such pop-up centre in Southall near Hounslow and home to a high number of Indians witnessed younger people queuing up.

Standing in the queue, Barkha, a student from India, said, "As soon as I came to the UK there was carnage at home. Everyone I know was getting affected, my friends, my family my teachers from home. Though I was heartbroken about the situation in India, I felt safer being here until I heard the news of its spreading here and spreading fast. As a student, I cannot isolate and have been quite afraid of catching it."

While England is keen to keep June 21 as its Covid exit date, experts believe that despite all caution, the possibility of not sticking to the date cannot be denied. “The plan in the UK is to surge test and to increase vaccine and to consider that June opening should be delayed by a few weeks,” said Dr Gupta.

England is hoping that its phase-by-phase approach to open up public places and boost the economy is not hampered by the Delta variant. Holiday towns like Cotswold have opened up. More than 90 per cent of the elderly have received two doses of the vaccine.