A covid lockdown will not be needed this Christmas, said the expert whose modelling helped instigate the first restrictions.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he feels it is “unlikely” Britain will see a “catastrophic winter wave” similar to that seen last year, which led to months of further lockdown across the country.
At a glance: 5 key points
- The epidemiologist said he “very much” hopes a clampdown being ordered in some parts of Europe can be avoided in the UK
- The Imperial College London academic also said he would be in favour of booster vaccinations being rolled out to “younger age groups”, once the most vulnerable have been given top-up jabs, in order to slow transmission
- He said modelling from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has indicated that expanding eligibility for the booster shots could help “drive down transmission to low levels”
- The prediction comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Friday that “storm clouds” of a new Covid wave are gathering over parts of Europe
- Many European countries are seeing an increase in cases and preparing to step up restrictions - with The Netherlands confirming a three week partial lockdown
What’s been said
Acknowledging that the UK is seeing a “hint of an uptick in the last few days” following weeks of declining case numbers and hospital admissions, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve had very high case numbers – between 30,000 and 50,000 a day – really for the last four months, since the beginning of July.
“That has obviously had some downsides.
“It has also paradoxically had an upside of boosting the immunity of the population compared with countries like Germany, the Netherlands and France, which have had much lower case numbers and are only now seeing an uptick.”
Prof Ferguson said he hopes the immunity levels mean the UK can “avoid” returning to social distancing restrictions this winter.
He added: “I think it is unlikely we will get anything close to what we had last year, that catastrophic winter wave.
“We might see slow increases as we did in October, for instance, but not anything as rapid as we saw last year.
“We can’t be complacent, but at the moment I don’t think we’ll be in a situation the Netherlands is coming into where they really do need to get on top of rising case numbers using social distancing.
“I very much hope we can avoid that in this country.”
New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has suggested infection levels are continuing to fall across the UK.
The figures show about one in 60 people in private households in England had Covid in the week to November 6, down from one in 50 the previous week.
In Wales, about one in 45 people is estimated to have had the virus in the week to November 6, down from one in 40 the previous week.
In Northern Ireland, the figure is about one in 75 people, down from one in 65 the previous week, while in Scotland it is one in 85 – down from one in 80.
Meanwhile, the i newspaper has reported that the Government does not expect the pandemic to be over for at least another year, and in a worst case scenario lockdowns could be needed until 2026.
A Government spokesman said it is preparing “for all eventualities” with “contingency planning” when it comes to dealing with the virus.
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