A two-week delay to the planned easing of restrictions in England on June 21 is reportedly being considered after the number of people in the country with Covid-19 rose by 75 per cent.
Multiple reports have also suggested plans to lift restrictions could be scaled down, with social distancing and the wearing of face coverings set to continue amid concerns the Indian variant is fuelling a surge in cases.
The UK on Friday recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases – 6,238 – since late March, according to official figures.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggested the number of people who had the virus in England has increased by around three quarters in a week, taking it to its highest tally since mid-April, with the R value between 1 and 1.2.
According to the Telegraph, a two-week delay to the final stage of Boris Johnson’s road map will be used to accelerate second jabs for over-40s, moving from a 12 to eight-week gap between doses, echoing the practise that is already in place for over-50s.
Those aged over 25 will also be offered their first doses from next week, the newspaper said.
It comes as laboratory data from the Francis Crick Institute backed up a policy of reducing the gap between jabs.
The study found that after just one dose of the Pfizer jab, people are less likely to develop antibody levels against the Indian (B.1.617.2) variant, also known as Delta, as high as those seen against the previously dominant Kent variant, which has been dubbed Alpha.
Dr Rosalind Eggo, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) Government advisory panel, said with “very early evidence” showing that the current vaccines on offer “don’t work quite as well against the Delta variant”, it was important to increase the rate of second jabs.
“Getting those second doses up, pushing that number up as high as possible is really important,” she told BBC’s Newsnight.
Pushing back by a fortnight the plans to lift all restrictions in order to allow more adults to be fully vaccinated could see so-called “freedom day” delayed until July 5.