• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

A top government scientific adviser believes London could face tougher restrictions if the South African variant is not controlled

Apr 15, 2021

Coronavirus restrictions may be kept in place for longer – or enough be toughened – in London if the South African variant continues to spread, disease experts have suggested.
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds has emphasised it is not clear whether testing will stop the number of cases growing in the capital.
Another expert, Professor Christina Pagel, said it would “make sense” to keep restrictions in place across the whole of London.
More than half a million adults living in South London boroughs have been offered tests, including 264,000 in Lambeth, 265,000 in Wandsworth, and 14,800 in the Rotherhithe ward of Southwark, after cases of the SA variant were detected earlier in the week.
On Tuesday, health chiefs said around 44 confirmed cases of the variant have been found in Lambeth and Wandsworth, with a further 30 probable cases.
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Mr Edmunds told ITV’s Peston Show: “What we are looking at in South London is an example of what well see now in the coming months, as we try our best to keep that variant out or at as low a level as we possibly can, because if these mass testing events dont work that well, and we dont know yet
“I mean well have to evaluate this one very carefully, then its possible that well have to impose some sort of local restrictions back in place and nobody wants to do it.”
The professor, who sits on the Governments Scientific Adviser Group on Emergencies (SAGE), added: “So thats why its really important that we test this testing system, you know mass testing, as robustly as we can, and hopefully that is going to be sufficient to be able to keep cases low.”
Members of the public queue for the COVID-19 testing centre at St John’s Church in Waterloo
He stressed most of the population would need to be vaccinated to stop the virus from returning but this could take a very long time.
According to the Guardian, Professor Pagel, director of UCL’s Clinical Operational Research Unit, and a member of the Independent Sage group, said further action rather than just surge testing may be needed to stop the spread of the variant.
“The South African variant seems concentrated in London right now and given that, if the government are as worried about this variant as they say they are, it would make sense to keep restrictions in London going longer.”
She added that it would not be feasible to introduce restrictions only in certain boroughs. Over the autumn and winter, when local lockdowns were used, restrictions were applied to the whole of London due to its interconnected nature.
Mr Edmunds also believes that vaccine passports will be introduced in England.
“It could help in getting parts of the economy opened up again that may otherwise have to wait. Im thinking of the arts and sporting events, and so on,” he said.
“You know, taking a test before entering those I think is going to happen, whether it has a significant [effect] or not, but I suspect that thats going to happen over the next few months for sure.”
The professor added that he believes people will continue to wear masks for some time even if they are not mandatory.
Surge testing is being stepped up in London to try to stop the spread of the SA variant.
Lambeth, Wandsworth and Southwark have set up additional testing facilities to process thousands of residents, while a case of the variant was also detected in Barnet.