UK's Johnson pushes back lifting restrictions by a month as variants spread

UK's Johnson pushes back lifting restrictions by a month as variants spread
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that his government would be delaying plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions for a month due to the rise of the Delta variant of the virus, which was first detected in India.

The planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions will now be scheduled for July 19, The Associated Press reports. During a press briefing, Johnson expressed confidence that, as vaccination efforts continue, there would be no need for any further delays following this most recent one.

“I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer,” he said. “Now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.”

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The original date for when COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted had been set for next Monday.

Along with pushing back the date on relaxations, Johnson announced that the date for when all British adults over the age of 18 could get a vaccine dose would be brought forward from the end of July to July 19, the AP reports.

“It’s unmistakably clear the vaccines are working and the sheer scale of the vaccine roll out has made our position incomparably better than in previous waves,” Johnson said.

It was reported on Sunday that Johnson would make an announcement delaying the easing of restrictions, though the prime minister said at the time that "no final decision" had been made yet.

"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," he told reporters after the end of the Group of Seven summit.

The British government has been cautious on lifting restrictions, saying any changes made would be "irreversible."

The AP reports that daily infectious rates in the United Kingdom have risen in recent weeks as the Delta variant has quickly become the dominant strain in the country.

The Delta variant is believed to be 60 percent more infectious than the previous dominant strain, and it is believed to cause a quicker onset of illness. A British study released on Monday found that the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca offer strong protection against the Delta variant, highlighting the need for a quick vaccine administration.