Lifting Lockdown On 21 June Would Be A “Bad Decision” Warns Government Scientific Adviser
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), warned this morning that there’s a “significant chance” the final stage of lockdown lifting will need to be delayed from 21 June.
It comes after the UK reported more than 3,000 new Covid infections for the sixth day in a row on Monday, despite the continued success of the vaccine rollout.
More than 25 million people in the UK have had two doses of a vaccine, while 39 million people have had their first dose as of 31 May.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Finn said that the government should wait until a larger proportion of the population are vaccinated.
"The idea that somehow the job is done is wrong — we've still got a lot of people out there who have neither had this virus infection nor yet been immunised and that's why we're in a vulnerable position right now," he said.
Professor Finn added that a rise in cases linked to the new B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in Indian, is something "we need to take seriously".
Speaking to LBC radio, he said: “The truth is that a more infectious virus, which is what it looks like we've got, will reach people who are vulnerable — those who did not make a good response to the vaccine, those who have not yet had their doses.“That will be a problem for everyone because in the end it will be worse economically as well as for public health if we end up having to shut down again.”
Asked if the government should delay the 21 June lifting of restrictions, Professor Finn said: "I fear it may be a bad decision to go with it."
He continued: "It's a different virus. It could be a real problem and it's only by taking it seriously now that we can get where we want to be as soon as possible.”
Other leading scientific experts have also urged the government to continue with caution.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Professor Sir Mark Walport — former chief scientific adviser to the government — said "the situation is very delicately balanced" as there is “no doubt” that the B.1.617.2 variant is more transmissible.
He insisted that more data was required. "The Prime Minister has to make a difficult decision. Admissions to hospital are going to be critical," he added.
Elsewhere, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), said the UK was at a “pivotal moment” in its fight against coronavirus.
British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has said the country is at a "pivotal moment" in the fight against coronavirus.He told Sky News: "A premature ending of all legal restrictions which then resulted in a surge of infections would undermine our health service's efforts to tackle the biggest level of backlog of care it has ever faced.”
"It would also add further demands on staff who are exhausted, both mentally and physically."
He urged ministers to "hold off making a final decision on whether lockdown is fully lifted on June 21 until latest data can be scientifically considered".
Small businesses minister Paul Scully said on Tuesday that the government was "carefully working through", adding: "We are looking at the data, making sure we can use the latest information rather than speculating now."
Speaking to Sky News, he said: "We're taking a careful view on where any increase in infections with the Indian variant are happening and that's why we're looking at surge testing in those areas and really making sure we're getting on the front foot."
"But by accelerating the vaccination programme and making people get their second jabs, those vaccinations can help us break that cycle of people having to go to hospital if they get Covid. And that's what's going to keep us on the roadmap."
Scully also insisted that the government was not “fudging” the decision on whether to delay lockdown.
"This isn't fudge. What we've said is we'll look at the data, we'll make a decision by 14 June as to what's happening on 21 June.
"Clearly, we know the fact that case numbers are going up. We do want to make sure we'll only open up based on data not those dates.
"We'll use the latest information. This isn't fudge, this is making sure that we just don't speculate and that we use the latest information and the most accurate information to make a really, really important decision."