: Spread of delta variant upends governments’ plans for lockdown exits

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The surge of infections due to the delta variant of the coronavirus causing COVID-19, notably among the young and the unvaccinated, is upsetting governments’ plans to ease pandemic restrictions and help their economies recover.

  • The U.K. government has confirmed it will end all COVID-related constraints on July 19 even as health secretary Sajid Javid warned Tuesday that the number of infections would then move into “unchartered territory,” due to the spread of the delta strain.

  • The number of new cases in Spain has risen eightfold in two weeks, to a daily 100,000, and the government is facing calls from regional authorities to bring back mandatory mask wearing in public and other restrictions.

  • In Australia, where past outbreaks of the virus had been suppressed, a lockdown imposed on the city of Sydney on June 26 was extended for another week on Wednesday, with strict stay-at-home orders to the population.

  • French health minister Olivier Veran warned earlier this week  that a new wave of the virus could hit France as soon as this summer, even as the pace of vaccination in the country is slowing.

What’s next: Because the delta variant causes less severe cases and fewer deaths than previous iterations of the virus, governments want to keep lifting growth-adverse restrictions. But renewed pessimism and nervousness among consumers and businesses could slow the recovery in the second half of the year.