There is growing doubt over whether the prime minister will be able to keep to his 21 June date due to the Indian variant.

The full lifting of restrictions in England should be delayed by a month beyond 21 June due to the impact of the Indian variant of coronavirus, a leading scientist advising the government has told Sky News.

Stage four of Boris Johnson’s roadmap for easing coronavirus rules – when the prime minister aims to remove all legal limits on social contact – is scheduled to take place from 21 June.

But there is growing doubt over whether the prime minister will be able to keep to that date due to the spread of the Indian variant – now renamed as the Delta variant by the World Health Organisation – within the UK.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told Sky News that a further easing of measures on 21 June was “a bit early”.

“I think we need at least a few weeks – probably a month until schools have closed, when the risk of transmission within schools falls during summer holidays,” he said.

“It then gives us another four weeks’ worth of data to collect about how the [Indian variant of the] virus is growing in the population, what sort of rate it is growing at, how it is doing relative to the previous strain B117.

“And also how effective our vaccines are against this new virus.

“All of that information is coming in weekly and it will enable us to build up a better picture whilst staying safe and maintaining the gains we made through that really painful three of four months we had.”

Prof Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology of the University of Cambridge, warned the Indian variant offered a “real risk now of generalised transmission in young people who are not vaccinated and, of course, school age children as well as those who are vulnerable and haven’t responded to the vaccine”

The June 21st freedom date should go ahead as planned.

Whilst coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we should be cautious going forward, the date should not be pushed backwards any further.

As time goes on, we are seeing less and less legitimate reasons for further restrictions. The nation has been incredibly patient and has, for the most part, followed the guidelines to prevent the spread.

The vaccine has shown to be very effective against the new Indian strain of the virus, as well as the overall vaccine rollout being incredibly successful and effective.

Hospitalisations are down and the majority of the groups which coronavirus affected the most have been vaccinated.

The hospitality sector has been decimated due to coronavirus. Video credit: Sky News

The date will boost the morale for huge portions of the nation, who have made financial and personal sacrifices over the past eighteen months. To extend the lockdown would be a kick in the teeth to these people.

It’s also no surprise that the current state of the economy is unsustainable long term. Many have lost their jobs and industries such as hospitality have been devastated. Larger businesses and chains will survive but the independent business owner can no longer afford to live like this.

There are also concerns to do with civil liberties. To date, even with emergency powers, we have never seen the government act in such an authoritarian and draconian manner.

We have seen people threatened with huge fines and even prison sentences for not social distancing, police forces tracking people on coastal areas via drones and, in London, even attempting to stop the free press from doing its job. It simply must end.

Protestors were arrested for protesting against lockdown restrictions. Video credit: The Independent

Everybody has their own narrative. SAGE, as well as other health professionals and advisers, know that the longer they can extend lockdown, and convince the government to extend lockdown indefinitely, they benefit financially. It’s very easy for people who aren’t directly affected by lockdown to theorise about why the population should remain in it.

Consequently, the phrase ‘data, not dates’ seems less and less like legitimate safety concerns and more to do with SAGE protecting its financial interests and the indirect exercise of unchecked power. At this stage, it’s propaganda.

There can be no more excuses for extending lockdown.

Would you rather be alive and able to rebuild your life, or needlessly dead from a virus whose transmission you could have avoided?

Lockdowns, lockdowns, lockdowns. We’re all heartily sick at just the mention of the word. However, it’s been a necessary evil to combat the spread of one of the deadliest new viruses to hit the planet, and completely reshape our society as we know it. There’s been a multitude of statistics flying around since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the main one being: does it really affect young people? Can we endorse the heavy restrictions on the lives of those whom COVID hardly affects, crippling their financial prospects and careers in the process?

Conflicting theories aside, the data shows us that yes, it does cause death amongst the young. The Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in the US found that 73,300 (79.5%) of excess deaths from March through August 2020 were COVID related, with 4,535 deaths occurring from March through July in younger adults ages 25 to 44, or 38% of all excess deaths in that group. That’s quite a large number of deaths in the supposedly ‘younger and more immune’ group.

On 27th May, a further 3,542 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported in the UK. On 31st May, Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told BBC Radio 4 there was an “exponential growth” in new cases, primarily due to the spread of the Indian variant. He confirmed that a third wave had begun, cautioning that all waves start with low case numbers that gradually rise, which is what we are most likely seeing here. He stated that the vaccine’s uptake can lull us into a false sense of security, as it slows the spread of the virus among those who are vaccinated, masking the effects of a third wave until it may be too late to act. Vaccines can be great at preventing you from getting seriously ill, but can’t always stop you from being infected.

The increased spread of the Indian variant (particularly among the young and unvaccinated) has caused even that seasoned gambler of lives, Boris Johnson, to recommend ‘caution’ and to assure that, if it shows within the data, the lifting of restrictions on June 21 may be delayed.

At last! I hear you cry. Common sense has returned, belatedly, to our government. The UK hardly needs yet another injury to its reputation at the moment, particularly after the abhorrent and preventable loss of life that occurred at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, due to a late lockdown.

It’s valid to argue that the majority of groups whom COVID-19 affects the most seriously have been vaccinated. However, to state that in younger age groups the risk is ‘negligible’ unless there’s an underlying condition is not factually correct, according to the aforementioned data from the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

It could even be likened to favourtism towards older people – so long as they’re vaccinated and safe, we can open up the world to those younger with a lower mortality risk, despite their group being the highest spreaders of new variants. More of an effort should have been made by the government to vaccine those who spread COVID the most, not just those who are the most likely to die from it.

Young people are not ‘cannon fodder’, to be used as an experimental tool as the UK opens up our society. We have to remember that any laws the government imposes on us can be viewed as draconian – having to attend work compulsorily while a deadly virus stalks the streets is just as brutal as ruling that everyone must stay at home to avoid said virus, losing their livelihoods in the process; indeed, it’s more so.

Ask yourself: Would you rather be alive and able to rebuild your life, or needlessly dead from a virus whose transmission you could have avoided? If anything, what COVID-19 has taught us to do is to adapt to a new world and a new situation. Many have successfully done so, and others who did not follow in their footsteps do not, therefore, gain the right to insist on the world’s reopening, potentially causing a third wave in the process. As the results of March 2020 taught us – when there’s doubt, stay inside.

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Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field.

Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

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Mel Tranfield is a futurist and apprentice iOS developer, who is fascinated by automation, FinTech, technology, politics and the future of work. As a technology journalist for the Common Sense Network, she wants to raise awareness of the need for innovation in the public sector, while exploring how our current governmental systems are equipped to handle rampant technological innovation, digital democracy, and how social change can be fuelled by technology.

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