Will there be another lockdown? Why rising Covid cases in the UK are unlikely to spark new restrictions – iNews

Covid-19 cases are rising quickly again, due to the spread of Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
According to official Government data, 109,908 people tested positive for the virus in England in the seven days up to 24 June – a 37 per cent increase on the week prior.
However, the real numbers are likely to be far higher, as the Government is only tracking positive tests logged on its website, and the provision of free tests has now ended.
The Zoe Covid study, which has been collecting data throughout the pandemic, says there are currently around 285,000 new infections across the UK every day.
It predicts that about 3.1 million people currently have symptomatic Covid-19.
Daily symptomatic infections have risen by 150 per cent this month, and according to Zoe data are at the highest level they have been for all but three weeks of the pandemic.
Tim Spector, the King’s College London professor who runs the app, told i he expects cases will rise to “just under” 300,000 a day by the weekend and could well keep rising next week – although he said he can’t be sure.
However, despite the rise in cases the chances of another lockdown remain very low.
Here is what you need to know.
The UK Government published its “Living with Covid” plan in February.
The crux of the plan was to move away from government restrictions and towards a system of personal resposibilty.
As such, all remaining Covid restrictions were dropped, including the legal requirement to self-isolate after catching the virus. This was replaced with guidance.
The Government said it was able to make this move due to the high levels of vaccination.
“Thanks to our hugely successful vaccination programme, the immunity built up in the population and our new antiviral and therapeutics tools, the UK is in the strongest possible position to learn how to live with Covid and end government regulation,” the Government said.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that restrictions would not stay in place a day longer than necessary. The British public have made extraordinary sacrifices during the 2020 lockdowns, the Roadmap, and recent Plan B measures in response to the Omicron variant.
“The plan sets out how vaccines and other pharmaceutical interventions will continue to form our first line of defence.”
Of all over-12s in the UK, 87 per cent have received two doses of the Covid vaccine, and just under 69 per cent have also received a booster.
Despite the Living with Covid plan, Boris Johnson has refused to completely rule out another lockdown, though it remains very unlikely.
He said back in April: “I want to avoid any such thing ever happening again.”
But added: “I think it would be irresponsible of any leader in any democracy to say that they’re going to rule out something that can save lives.
“I believe the things we did saved lives. I’ve got to be absolutely frank with you, there could be a new variant more deadly, there could be a variant that affects children, that we really need to contain, I’m not going to take any options off the table. But I don’t think it will happen.
“We’re now in the phase where the virus is losing its potency overall and we’ve got a massively vaccinated UK population.”
The surge in cases this month was initially driven by the long weekend of Jubilee Celebrations, which began on Thursday 2 June.
The impact of this type of event typically feeds through to increases in Covid cases for about a fortnight, experts say.
But over the course of this month the overwhelming driver of infections has been the rapid growth of the new Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5 – which have ousted BA.2 as the dominant variants in the UK.
Waning immunity from vaccination and prior infection has also played a role in the increases, as has increased socialising as people increasingly return to normal.
“This significant rise in symptomatic infections is really worrying and demonstrates that there’s no room for complacency as far as Covid is concerned,” said Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick.
“It’s a wake-up call about our vulnerability to new variants – this wave of infection is driven by new Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that are more infectious and able to evade immune protection afforded by vaccination and previous infection.
“The good news is that where other countries have experienced significant waves of B.4 and BA.5, namely Portugal and South Africa, these waves have now peaked without a major increase in severe disease, principally due to the levels of vaccination in these populations.
“The hope is that this will be similar here and that we have reached the peak of infections.”
The recent wave has led to fears of a larger autumn wave, however.
“This wave provides a warning for what we could experience over the autumn and winter. We need to prepare now for the autumn and winter months when colder weather will drive people indoors increasing the risk of infection not only with new Covid variants but also with other respiratory virus infections,” Professor Young said.
“Waning immunity means that booster shots will be necessary in the autumn to protect the elderly, clinically vulnerable and frontline healthcare workers.”
The NHS lists the following as official Covid-19 symptoms:
The Covid advice differs depending on where you live in the UK.
England
Self-isolation is no longer a legal requirement in England, but the NHS advises that people infected with Covid-19 “should stay at home and avoid contact with other people” to help reduce the spread of the virus.
In particular, you should avoid being in close contact with people at higher risk from coronavirus, for example if they are elderly or have a weakened immune system, even if they have had the vaccine.
Infected people should try to work from home if they can. “If you are unable to work from home, talk to your employer about options available to you,” Government advice states.
Positive cases should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day of their test.
Scotland
The Scottish Government recommends following the advice on NHS Inform.
If you test positive, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day you took your test, or from the day your symptoms started (whichever was earlier).
If you have not tested positive, you should try to stay home until you feel better.
It is also recommended you take the following steps to keep others safe:
Wales
Wales is continuing to offer free lateral flow tests to people who have symptoms. You can order them here.
If you display Covid symptoms, you should self-isolate and order a test. Continue to self-isolate until you get your result.
Should the test be negative, you can leave isolation immediately.
If you test positive, you are advised to isolate for five full days, starting from the day after you took the test, and then take another test.
Should that test be negative, take another test the following day. If that test is also negative you can leave isolation.
If either test is positive continue isolating until you receive negative tests two days in a row, or until day 10, whichever is sooner.
Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Government advises people to isolate immediately if they have Covid symptoms or have tested positive.
If you display Covid symptoms you should self-isolate and order a test. Continue to self-isolate until you get your result.
If the test is negative you can leave isolation immediately.
If you test positive you are advised to isolate for five full days, starting from the day after you took the test, and then take another test.
If that test is negative, take another test the following day. If that test is also negative you can leave isolation.
If either test is positive, continue isolating until you receive negative tests two days in a row, or until day 10, whichever is sooner.
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