Risk in United Kingdom lockdown easing too soon: Scientists

Henrietta Brewer
June 1, 2020

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said, "I know we are going into another weekend where the weather looks fantastic and attractive, and that will bring many temptations for us to go outside and perhaps meet with friends and loved ones that we haven't seen for some time, and perhaps gather in large groups, but, quite simply the rules and regulations will not allow that this weekend".

John Edmunds and Sir Jeremy Farrar, both members of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said the rate of infections and fatalities was still too high for restrictions to be relaxed.

One of the slowest countries to lock down, Britain is now one of the worst-hit and is just starting to take tentative steps to reopen parts of the economy, aided by a newly launched track and trace system that is created to suppress outbreaks.

Sir Patrick added: "I then think it's not scaled as fast as it needs to scale - and that's being done now".

Downing Street said it had "at all times been informed by the data and evidence" in making decisions.

The authorities dropped routine testing for coronavirus because there was exclusively capability to trace five cases per week, in line with newly launched paperwork from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage). An app is not yet ready for the scheme.

Ahead of a sunny weekend, three experts broke ranks to voice fears about easing restrictions from Monday as the COVID-19 infection rate remains relatively high, with some 8,000 new cases per day.

Mark Woolhouse, who sits on the government's Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) committee, warned "A second wave is a clear and present danger".

Horby of the University of Oxford said there was still too much uncertainty about what would happen to the virus' reproduction rate - commonly known as R - if schools reopen and other activities resume.

"I share with all my scientific colleagues, or virtually all my scientific colleagues, a deep concern that we need to go with great caution", he told the BBC.

Van-Tam said the more than 50 members of SAGE, which includes scientists, medics and academics, often held differing opinions but they all agreed that any easing must be painstakingly slow and extremely cautious.

One - epidemiologist John Edmunds - said the move was "a political decision". "At the beginning Public Health England got off to a good start in terms of testing to try and make sure they caught people coming into the country with it [coronavirus]".

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