Yesterday the Prime Minister confirmed that we will proceed to Step 4 of the Roadmap for easing restrictions on 19 July, while urging the public to be cautious as we move from regulations towards personal responsibility.
Thanks to the continued success of our historic vaccination programme, the link between infections and hospitalisations has been severely weakened, with an estimated 8.5 million infections and 30,000 deaths prevented in England alone. That is why we are able to move to Step 4 of the Roadmap on 19 July, lifting the majority of legal restrictions - however people will be expected to protect themselves and others through informed choice, such as wearing face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces - where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet - and using the NHS COVID pass in high risk settings. The Government has also set out guidance for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable on how they can keep themselves safe.
The move to Step 4 was delayed by 4 weeks so more adults could be vaccinated. Nearly 7 million vaccines have already been administered during the delay. By 19 July two thirds of adults will have received two doses and every adult will have been offered a first dose. The delay to Step 4 has also moved the end of restrictions closer to the school summer holidays.
Data from PHE suggests that one dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 80% effective against hospitalisations with the Delta variant, increasing to 96% after two doses.
All data will be kept under review, and contingency measures will be retained to manage periods of higher risk, such as winter. Guidance will be strengthened if needed, but restrictions will be avoided if possible due to their significant economic, social and health costs. The Government will review the current guidance in September.
The pandemic is not over and cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks, but with 80 million vaccinations now administered we can replace the short term protection of restrictions with the long standing protections vaccines offer.
For more information on the Government’s confirmation that Step 4 of the Roadmap will go ahead on Monday 19 July, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-confirms-move-to-step-4.
New megalab opens to bolster fight against COVID-19
Today the UK's new testing megalab opens in Royal Leamington Spa, bolstering our ability to tackle new variants of concern and future disease threats.
Testing has been instrumental in helping us to control the virus and it is essential that we continue to protect ourselves and our communities in the months ahead. That is why the Government is opening the state-of-the-art Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in Royal Leamington Spa - using trailblazing technologies to detect new variants of concern and carrying out hundreds of thousands of tests every day, whilst creating 1,500 skilled jobs for the area.
The new state-of-the-art laboratory is at the heart of the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA’s) plans for the next part of our battle against the pandemic. In recognition of her outstanding contribution to our current understanding of genomic sequencing – one of our weapons in the fight against COVID-19 – the laboratory is named after Rosalind Franklin.
The publicly owned, very-high-throughput laboratory is going to use cutting-edge technology, such as automation and top of the range robotics. This includes LGC EndPoint PCR (EPCR) testing workflow for COVID-19, which has ultra-high capacity and can process up to 150,000 tests each day on a single instrument. This will allow more tests to be processed more quickly and at a lower cost, and establishing a flexible pandemic response infrastructure that can respond to surges in demand.
In the coming months, the laboratory will carry out genotype assay testing, using ePCR machines to rapidly detect COVID-19 mutations indicating whether positive test samples contain known variants, and genome sequencing to confirm known variants and identify any new mutations.
The strength of the UK’s genomics science base and diagnostics sequencing industry has allowed the UK to genomically sequence over 600,000 positive COVID-19 tests, rapidly identifying COVID-19 variants and capturing critical data, enabling scientists to track and stay ahead of mutations in the genome of the virus.
The laboratory will be one of the centrepieces of our efforts to tackle this virus, putting us at the forefront of the global battle against COVID and helping us to stay ahead of new and emerging threats.
For more information on the UK’s first megalab and the New UK Health Security Agency, which has today set out its priorities for coming months to manage virus and boost UK pandemic preparedness, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-megalab-opens-to-bolster-fight-against-covid-19.