The UK would be making a “terrible mistake” to relax Covid measures just months before vaccines are expected to take effect, a leading scientist said.
Prof Peter Openshaw, a government adviser, said the nation should not “take the brakes off” at this stage “when the end is in sight”.
He said infection rates, numbers in hospital and deaths were all too high.
But he said recent trial results showed “for sure that this is a virus we can defeat with vaccination”.
Prof Openshaw, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) who works at Imperial College London, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We scientists are very concerned indeed about relaxation of precautions at this stage.
“The rates are still too high, there’s too many cases coming into hospitals, too many people dying.”
England’s lockdown is ending this week, when it will enter a three-tier system of restrictions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the tier system would be given an expiry date of 3 February.