England’s chief medical officer has warned people to stick to the rules as lockdown is eased, saying there will be a “very rapid surge in infection” if they relax too early.
Professor Chris Whitty acknowledged that easing restrictions would naturally mean “a surge of cases”, with the reproduction number (the R) getting close to, or over, the crucial threshold of 1.
While vaccination would take “lot of the heavy load” in pulling the R down – and many elderly and vulnerable would be protected through having a vaccine – there would be a rise in cases and deaths if the virus was just allowed to let go, he said.
He told the Downing Street press briefing there are still “very significant” numbers of people with coronavirus every day in the UK.
He added: “There are still a lot of people in hospital with this disease. This is not the end, but this is the point where we can have a steady, risk-based, data-driven opening up.
“But everybody must stick to the guidelines as they go through the different stages, because if we don’t do that then we will get to a stage where the rates go up very high and you’ll find there are people who are not protected by the vaccinations.”