The Jerusalem Post

UK set to delay end of curbs as Delta variant spreads

India gingerly eases coronaviru­s rules as new cases dip


LONDON/ NEW DELHI (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to delay a further easing of COVID restrictio­ns by several weeks on Monday following concerns about a rapid rise in Delta infections.

Under a so-called “road map” outlined by Johnson in February, the government said most social restrictio­ns would be lifted “no earlier” than June 21, when pubs, restaurant­s, nightclubs and other hospitalit­y venues could fully reopen.

But in recent weeks there has been fast growth in cases caused by the Delta variant, first discovered in India. Officials believe it is 60% more transmissi­ble than the previous dominant strain and scientists have warned that it could trigger a third wave of infections.

Johnson has not denied suggestion­s in the media that the end of lockdown would be delayed by up to a month, saying in recent days there was “serious concern” about rising infections and hospitaliz­ations.

“We’re continuing to look at the data. No final decision has been taken and the right time to fill everybody in on what we’re going to do with ... June the 21st is tomorrow,” Johnson told reporters after a Group of Seven summit on Sunday.

Junior health minister Ed Argar said on Monday he expected Johnson would announce more aid for business and let parliament have a say if there was a delay in easing capacity constraint­s.

“I know that when he addresses his decision, sets out what he intends to do around the easing on the 21st, he will address those points as well,” Argar told Sky News.

Meanwhile, Many Indian states eased coronaviru­s restrictio­ns on Monday including the capital Delhi, where authoritie­s allowed all shops and malls to open, as the number of new infections dropped to the lowest in more than two months.

Experts have cautioned against a full re-opening as India has vaccinated only about 5% of its estimated 950 million adults with the necessary two doses, leaving millions vulnerable.

Infections peaked in India in May with about 400,000 new cases a day but that dropped to 70,421 new infections reported on Monday, the lowest daily increase since March 31, Health Ministry data showed.

The number of deaths went up by 3,921, the data showed. India has had the second-highest tally of COVID-19 infections in the world after the US, with 29.51 million cases and 374,305 deaths.

Authoritie­s in Delhi allowed all shops and malls to reopen although bars, gyms, salons, cinemas and parks remained shut.

City chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that markets and restaurant­s would be carefully watched this week.

“If we see coronaviru­s cases are going up, we will have to reimpose strict restrictio­ns,” Kejriwal said in a televised address on Sunday.

Hospitals in Delhi had struggled to provide oxygen cylinders and beds to patients last month as infections surged but earlier this month, the city allowed businesses to bring back 50% of employees and they partially resumed public transport.

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