SAGE advisers today called for England’s June 21 Freedom Day to be delayed ‘by a few weeks’ amid rising cases of the Indian Covid variant – as a minister admitted the Government ‘couldn’t rule anything out’.
Professor Ravi Gupta, who sits on the NERVTAG subgroup, urged No10 to push back the crucial date to allow more people to get vaccinated before ditching all social distancing and mask-wearing rules.
The Cambridge University expert claimed there were early signs the third wave had already begun – after daily infections breached 4,000 on Friday for the first time in nearly two months – and warned it could become ‘quite explosive’ over the next few months. During a round of interviews this morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice said the Government ‘couldn’t rule anything out’ when asked if the June 21 unlocking could be delayed. He insisted a decision would be made in a fortnight’s time when ministers will know more about the Indian strain’s effect on hospital rates.
Professor Gupta said the jab rollout was giving people a ‘false sense of security’ because infection rates were still relatively low, but claimed it was inevitable unvaccinated people would eventually start to fall ill with the highly infectious strain. The roaring success of the vaccine programme has seen almost 40million adults given at least one dose of the jab and 25million fully inoculated. But it leaves more than 5million Britons over-50 either unvaccinated or only partially protected.
Professor Gupta’s comments were echoed by SAGE professor Susan Michie, who warned Britain was on a ‘knife-edge’ as it approached the June 21 deadline. The University College London behavioural scientist, who sits on the SPI-B committee, said said fully opening the country as planned could lead to a serious spike akin to the second wave in the winter.
Flashback to June, 2020: Britain is ‘on a knife edge’ in coronavirus crisis and could face a severe second wave in winter when people won’t be able to tell ‘Covid-19’ from a cold, SAGE scientist warns (No – because they are the same thing)
The UK is ‘on a knife edge’ in its coronavirus crisis and faces a very real threat of a second surge in the winter, one of the Government’s top advisers has warned.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the London-based research charity the Wellcome Trust, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he was ‘worried’ about the prospect of the virus returning.
He said he expects the number of people getting diagnosed with the virus to rise in the next couple of weeks and into July. Next Saturday, July 4, is expected to see the biggest loosening of lockdown rules since March in England as pubs reopen and people are allowed to mix with other households. Sir Jeremy said the country faces a ‘very precarious situation’ and examples are already emerging of people flouting social distancing rules.
Crowds were pictured packed onto Bournemouth beach last week, the police have broken up raves and parties in London and Liverpool FC fans celebrating the team’s Premier League win have been partying in the streets against official advice. The Wellcome Trust chief said it will be even harder to control a second spike in the winter when people struggle to distinguish Covid-19 from a cold or flu.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that people would have to think more carefully about going into work when they were sick because of the risk it could be coronavirus.