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UK could be hit by 2 million additional COVID-19 cases

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-07-08 09:14

People, some wearing protective face masks, walk through Waterloo Station, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain, July 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Govt strategy is criticized for relying on vaccination and natural infection

A staggering 2 million United Kingdom residents could get COVID-19 in the coming weeks, following the government's decision to end the nation's lockdown on July 19, The Guardian has calculated.

The newspaper said an additional 10 million people could, as a result of the sharp rise in the number of people with infections, be forced to self-isolate, causing massive disruption to the economy that, ironically, the government is trying to bolster through its termination of the lockdown.

The British government has said it expects the number of new COVID-19 cases in the nation of 68 million people to jump, from the current 29,000 a day to 100,000.

Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour Party's spokesperson on health issues, said the government's willingness to allow such a sharp rise in the number of infections will pile pressure on the National Health Service, or NHS, and lead to more workers calling in sick.

"As more people are exposed to the virus, more people will be forced to isolate themselves," he said. "The government's strategy now relies on a combination of vaccination and natural infection among younger people."

Munira Wilson, the health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats party, agreed, saying younger people who do not manage to get fully vaccinated before the summer months will bear the brunt of lockdown's end.

"After all the pain young people have gone through, from the exam results fiasco last summer to job losses in the hospitality sector, this will feel like a bitter blow after being promised a so-called freedom day," she told The Guardian.

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has acknowledged the UK is heading for "uncharted territory", has said the NHS will not be overwhelmed by the anticipated sharp rise in COVID-19 cases because the success of the vaccination program means most people who get the disease will not become seriously ill.

The BBC, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that the government will take its lockdown relaxation even further on Thursday by making it easier for travelers from the UK to visit other nations without the need to go into quarantine when they return.

The Financial Times said two of the world's largest airlines - British Airways and Virgin Atlantic - are preparing to play their part in the expected resurgence of the travel industry by piloting a program to fast-track travelers who have been double-jabbed with vaccines.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said on Radio 4's Today program: "At the moment, the main barrier to people who have been doubly vaccinated traveling … is being able to demonstrate to the government that we can check that they've had the vaccination already."

He said the airlines will have access to vaccination systems, so they will be able to verify whether travelers have had both vaccines and are considered safe.

The Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday that 89 percent of adults in the UK now have COVID-19 antibodies, either because of a previous exposure to the virus or because they have had a vaccine.

But, against the backdrop of the UK ending most of its lockdown restrictions based on the efficacy of its vaccination program, some experts have warned that jabs are not 100 percent effective and that increased interaction will risk unleashing a "vaccine-resistant variant".

Paul Nurse, a medical Nobel laureate and chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute, which has conducted COVID-19 research throughout the pandemic, was quoted by The Independent newspaper as saying: "I think it's not unreasonable for the government to open the country up more, given the success of the vaccine rollout. But I'm really not sure it's sensible to open up so much so fast when the level of infection is rising so quickly."

He said his biggest fear is that the end of the lockdown could "create a variant resistant to the vaccine".

The British Medical Association added that it too is worried, about the prospect of the end of the lockdown exposing young Britons to a virus that could leave up to 10,000 of them with 'long COVID', meaning they will be sick for months.

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