SAGE experts have claimed that the end of lockdown on June 21 should be delayed for ‘several weeks’ – as a health expert warned the UK could be in the grip of a third wave.
Professor Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said that ministers must have a clearer picture of the spread of the Indian variant before making any decisions about unlocking further.
Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
Members of the public walks past a Covid-19 sign at Ridley Road Market in Dalston, east LondonCredit: LNP
Professor Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said that ministers must have a clearer picture of the spread of the Indian variant before making any decisions about unlocking furtherCredit: Sky News
The spread of the more transmissible Indian variant has cast fresh doubt over whether June 21 can go ahead – despite the success of the vaccination programme.
Asked about whether the unlocking was likely to go ahead, Prof Finn told ITVs Good Morning Britain: I think it’s unfortunate that everyone’s got this particular date in their head, because really what we need to do is understand how things are going and adjust accordingly.
What we’ve done wrong in the past is left it too late and delayed making decisions, ultimately pushed them back and then ended up with large waves of infection.
This time around, we should be cautious, wait to see what’s happening, and then let everyone free, if you like, once we know for sure that that’s safe and that we can do that without having another round of lockdowns and so on.
Prof Finn also said there is a question mark over how fast the rise in Covid cases is going to be and how high numbers will go.
He told Times Radio: “In those circumstances we’d all be better off doing everything we can to minimise that risk so that we don’t get to a position where we have to really go backwards in terms of the restrictions that we’re all having to endure.”
It comes as…
- Second Covid jabs ‘will be offered to all over-50s in a race to ensure June 21 goes ahead’
- The government is ditching plans for Covid passports, according to a report
- Covid cases have risen by 40 per cent in a week as the Indian variant spreads, but deaths remain low
- Hospital chiefs fear that tourists could pile pressure on the NHS in popular staycation destinations
Meanwhile, environment secretary George Justice today admitted that infection rates are going up again – plunging the next stage of unlocking into uncertainty.
The cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4s Today programme: The Prime Minister has said all along that he is going to take this one step at a time and will only make the judgment on the next step, on June 21, about a week before that.
“I think he is excepted to say something in a couple of weeks’ time on June 14.
“The rates are going up again slightly but from a low base and probably to be expected, given there are a significant number of younger people who are now out and mixing but haven’t had the vaccine – I suppose that is to be expected.
“But the right thing to do in a couple of weeks’ time is to assess that data before deciding what we can do.”
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, has said June 21 is “too early” to lift coronavirus restrictions in England.
She told Sky News: “I really think that it is too early to be charging ahead. I would like to see several more weeks’ data.”
Meanwhile, another health expert yesterday claimed that a third wave of infections had already begun.
Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told The Guardian: We can already see that the current measures are not stopping cases rising rapidly in many parts of the country.
This looks very much as if we are now early in a third wave. Unless there is a miracle, opening up further in June is a huge risk.
The rise in cases we are seeing now should cause a reassessment of the most recent relaxation.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), also warned that the UK could see a big wave of infections should the unlocking go ahead.
He added: If things go as I think they are going to go, we will likely end up with a third wave.
It will put pressure on the NHS at a time when we are trying to get back to normal and it is going to require a redoubling of efforts from the government to step up vaccination and to look at boosting of waning (immune) responses.
Nadhim Zahawi says the World Health Organisation investigation must be able to fully investigate the origins of the pandemic