Millions among the most vulnerable members of society have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Boris Johnson is set to unveil his road map out of lockdown on February 22 amid calls from Conservative MPs to ease restrictions quickly in a bid to boost the economy. This Morning contributor Prof Paul Hunter suggested there is now a “realistic” expectation lockdown may be lifted as the vaccination rollout reduces the pressure on NHS staff.
Prof Hunter said: “One of the reasons why we go into lockdown is, essentially, to protect the health service.
“If people aren’t getting severely ill, and if they aren’t requiring hospitalization then the pressure on the NHS is substantially less. And the demands for lockdown are reduced.
“But we still got quite a way to go before we get to the summer.
“Case numbers could, in theory, go up again if we release too quickly but, when we are looking at reopening schools in March and then subsequently opening up society after that, that’s a realistic expectation that by late spring we will almost certainly we’ll be under substantially less restrictions than we are at the moment.”
The suggestion comes as the British Government confirmed health officials achieved the 15 million vaccination target set in late December.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “very proud” of his team for their hard work and suggested the new targeted 1 to 9 groups will now be vaccinated by the end of April.
Meanwhile, new restrictions have come into effect on Monday morning to limit the risks of spreading new strains of COVID-19 by imposing a strict quarantine on red-listed countries.
People who have travelled from or transited through these areas will be required to remain quarantined in special Covid hotels for 10 days and will need to test negative on day two and eight before being allowed to leave confinement.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast a “sustainable exit” whereby measures are lifted in a way that does not result in another lockdown is “an important part of our considerations”.
But Professor Neil Ferguson, who advises the Government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), warned that more information is needed about how effective vaccines are going to be.
He told Good Morning Britain: “We have results from scientific studies, clinical trials, but the real world is a different thing and so, again as the Government has said, we need to see how much protection vaccinated people have, how quickly death rates come down before we can be completely confident about going that next step and really reopening.”
Prof Ferguson said he is “encouraged” by the Government’s “cautious strategy” to date, adding: “The thing we don’t want to repeat is what has happened on previous occasions – namely relaxing too fast.”
Echoing this view, Professor Gabriel Scally, president of the epidemiology and public health section at the Royal Society of Medicine, said there needs to be a “strategic plan” for easing restrictions by driving down the virus.
Prof Scally, who is a member of Independent Sage, said cases must come down “consistently”, adding: “We can’t repeat the mistakes that we made in the past by loosening restrictions in places where there still is a lot of circulating virus.”
Published at Mon, 15 Feb 2021 10:51:00 +0000