The relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK could lead to “to a substantial resurgence of hospitalisations”, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said, as restrictions are to be eased next week.
Lockdown restrictions are planned to be eased on Monday in the UK, with Health Minister Edward Argar urging people to behave responsibly.
Member of the Independent SAGE group of experts Professor Christina Pagel, however, said that one of the four tests the government had set out that must have been met for lockdowns to be eased has not been met.
The professor said that the Indian strain of COVID-19 increases the risks associated with relaxing the rules.
The United Kingdom has seen a rapid increase in the detection of the lineage B.1.617.1 and, to a greater extent, B.1.617.2, associated with travel to India and onward community transmission, as reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association said the lockdown relaxation was a "real worry" since many are still awaiting vaccination.
BMA health medicine committee co-chair Dr. Richard Jarvis said that the UK must approach the next lockdown easing with “utmost caution”, amid clusters of the virus strains, including the Indian one, becoming a growing concern and with key population segments not vaccinated.
"It is a real worry that when further measures lift on May 17, the majority of younger people, who are often highly socially mobile and could therefore be most at risk of a more infectious strain, are not yet vaccinated," he said.
UK Health Minister Edward Argar, however, expressed his confidence to Sky News that easing restrictions on Monday “is the right thing to do, is the safe thing to do”.
"We all have our part to play in behaving responsibly, as that happens, following the rules on things like mask-wearing," he added.
The UK entered its third lockdown in January after a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths threatened to overwhelmed the public health system, but lockdown measures began to be lifted on 8 March, as part of the government's roadmap to normality.
Britain has lost more than 127,000 people to COVID-19 and has been under one of the world’s strictest national lockdowns since the beginning of the pandemic. The UK government has been widely criticised since the onset of the crisis in 2020 for failing to take appropriate measures in time, leading to a greater loss of life.