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What are the four tests to ease restrictions and have we met them?

Government ministers and scientists are weighing up whether or not go ahead with plans to ease lockdown restrictions on June 21 (Picture: Getty and PA)

As the ‘freedom day’ of June 21 approaches, all eyes are on the government’s four tests which determine if England is ready for the final stage of lockdown easing.

The answers to the questions, set by ministers and scientists earlier in the pandemic, will determine how much of our normal lives return later this month.

All four tests must be met before restrictions can be eased and there is a growing number of scientists insisting new variants should be prompting a rethink.

Ministers have given themselves until June 14 – exactly one week before the planned unlocking – to assess all the data and make their decision.

These are the four key questions they’ll be considering and that will define our summer.

1. Is the vaccine deployment programme continuing successfully?

The UK’s vaccine programme is widely hailed as a success and it’s looking good across the UK – almost three-quarters of all British adults (74.8%) have had their first jab and almost half have had their second (48.5%).

In England and Scotland, all over-30s are being asked to come forward for their vaccine and in Northern Ireland, people over the age of 25 can get their jab.

Case numbers are much lower than they were this winter – but they are beginning to rise in certain hotspots around the country (Picture: Getty Images)

In Wales, adults in any age group can book in for their jab.

All over-50s and clinically vulnerable people should be fully vaccinated with both doses by June 21, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.

It comes amid reports that ministers are preparing to offer vaccines to all over-18s within weeks to help halt the spread of variants.

2. Does evidence show vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospital admissions and deaths in those vaccinated?

Vaccine escape is a real worry but so far the evidence is good, even against the new Delta (formerly Indian) variant.

NHS leaders say only a handful of people who have had both doses have been admitted to hospital.

Hospitalisations have increased slightly in recent weeks but fewer patients are spending time on critical care units (Picture: Getty Images)

Public Health England (PHE) estimates the vaccine programme has prevented 13,200 deaths in England alone among adults aged 60 and over and stopped 39,700 hospital admissions among those aged 65 and over.

While cases are currently rising due to the spread of variants, there has not been a rise in deaths – with the UK reporting zero fatalities for the first time since last summer yesterday.

3. Do infection rates risk a surge in hospital admissions which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS?

Hospital admissions are on the up in some hotspot areas but NHS leaders have said the picture is very different to the spike in early 2021.

There have been 870 hospital admission over the last seven days but these have generally been made up of younger people who are easier to treat and spend less time on critical care wards.

Variants are springing up around the world and forcing governments to confront the idea of changing plans to reduce restrictions (Picture: Getty Images)

4. Is the government’s assessment of the risks fundamentally changed by new variants of concern?

This is the question keeping ministers and scientists up at night.

Cases of the new Delta variant doubled in a week and there is concern it is significantly more transmissible than previous strains.

Data from PHE suggests that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs offer high levels of protection against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant among those who have had two doses of the jab.

It is hoped the vaccine roll out has broken the link between cases and hospital admissions, serious illness and death but data is still coming in.

New variants are the reality of any pandemic and more are likely to emerge.

The government has 14 days to weigh up the risks posed by the variants already with us.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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