COVID surge in coming weeks could delay plans to ease restrictions, top vaccine adviser warns

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 21, 2021, to take part in the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has previously set out 17 May and 21 June as the final two planned dates for leaving lockdown. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

A member of the government’s top vaccine advisory board has warned the easing of England’s coronavirus lockdown could be delayed if infections surge over the next few weeks.

Prof Adam Finn, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said any sense that the pandemic is over is “flawed”.

He warned that adjustments to the current roadmap dates could be made if there are “significant rises” in cases as the lockdown is eased.

The second stage, which began on Monday last week, has seen the likes of pubs, shops and hairdressers allowed to reopen.

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown

The move to the third stage is planned for 17 May, with the government subsequently aiming to drop all legal restrictions on social contact on 21 June.

Prof Finn, speaking on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday, said modelling points to a “summer surge” as the lockdown is relaxed because millions of people are still to receive at least one dose of a vaccine.

“If people move too far forward with [the easing of lockdown] too fast, we’ll see things start to come up earlier. The sense that the problem is all over, I’m afraid, is a flawed one.

“We’re still in a vulnerable situation, and there are still significant numbers of people who potentially could be harmed by this infection if this happens.”

Asked if the changes planned for 17 May might need to be adjusted, Prof Finn pointed out it has always been a "provisional timetable, based on what actually happens".

“I think if we do start to see significant rises in cases in some parts of the country, they may need to adjust back those dates in order to avoid the situation coming into effect.”

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At Tuesday's Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson said there was nothing in the current data to suggest the government could not proceed with the next stage of unlocking on 17 May.

However, he said most scientists were “firmly of the view” that there would be a third wave of the disease at some point this year.

On Tuesday, 2,524 new COVID-19 cases were reported across the UK, similar to the numbers seen at the beginning of September last year.

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