Health leaders 'relieved' by four-week roadmap delay

15 June 2021, 00:22

Boris Johnson announced the four-week delay at a press conference on Monday
Boris Johnson announced the four-week delay at a press conference on Monday. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

Health leaders have expressed "relief" that the Prime Minister has extended the current lockdown restrictions for another four weeks.

NHS Providers have said that pushing back so-called Freedom Day to 19 July will allow for more vaccinations and put less pressure on hospitals which are still recovering from the pandemic.

“A delay of four weeks will enable the NHS to do two important things,” said chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson.

“It will enable us to confirm the extent to which vaccines have broken the chain between infections and hospitalisations and deaths.

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“And, crucially, it will enable us to vaccinate many more people with double doses and a period of protection [to] build up.

"It will also mean less pressure on hospitals at a point when they are very busy recovering care backlogs and dealing with increased demand for emergency care with significantly reduced capacity, due to the need to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals.”

However Mr Hopson also said that NHS leaders understood the impact that the delay would have on people’s lives, mental health and the economy, and that the next task would be to discuss what “the NHS, and we as a nation, need to do to live with the virus longer term”.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said health leaders would be “relieved” that the Government had “listened to their warnings” and that their members would use the extra time to vaccinate as many people as possible.

"With rising hospitalisations, over 7,700 cases of coronavirus being confirmed every day in England, around half of the adult population not having been fully vaccinated yet, and over one million people believed to have 'Long Covid', opening up further before 21 June would have been dangerous,” said Mr Taylor.

He also said that the Government should not hesitate the delay the reopening further if the data called for it.

"If the data continues to show that the Covid situation has not improved come 19 July, the Government has to be prepared to act decisively again and if needed, slam the brakes down further,” he said.

BMA chair of council Dr Chaand Nagpaul also voiced support for the delay, saying he was “glad” the Government saw the “need for the current restrictions in England to remain in place for a few more weeks”.

"We are, without doubt, in a phase where cases of the virus are spiralling, but the data we have still doesn't yet show the full impact of this or of the easing of restrictions on May 17,” said Dr Nagpaul.

"Furthermore, the more people who have the virus, the more likely it is that new variants of concern will emerge and numbers of those with longer term ill health following infection will increase.

"So, it is important to do whatever we can to avoid high levels of virus circulating in the community."