politics

SAGE expert warns UK must not end lockdown early as announcement due tomorrow


A SAGE member has warned Boris Johnson not to bring forward ‘Freedom Day’ to July 5 as the government gears up for an announcement tomorrow.

The Prime Minister or his team were expected to confirm on Monday whether he will use a two-week “break clause” to ease some restrictions early in England.

But Prof Peter Horby said the PM must not “rush into” easing restrictions before July 19 – the date to which he pushed back the June 21 end of his lockdown roadmap.

The member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) warned it would be a “bumpy road” out of the pandemic, predicting more variants will appear.

While a final decision has not yet been made, ministers have already said it is “unlikely” that England’s restrictions will end early on July 5.



Professor Peter Horby, Chair of the UK government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group
Prof Horby has warned Boris Johnson not to bring forward ‘Freedom Day’ to July 5

It is thought Boris Johnson is not planning to give a 5pm No10 press conference tomorrow, though final plans are not yet confirmed.

Prof Horby said: “July 19 as the earliest is what’s actually been said. And we always have to be driven by the data, not the dates.

“So we’re watching it very carefully and there’ll be a lot of the analysis of the data coming up to that date to make sure we’re comfortable with that release.

“At the moment, the data is encouraging that we can do that, but we have to make sure we follow the data.”

Asked if it should move forward to July 5, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “No, I wouldn’t do that.

“I think it was a very sensible move to put it back by four weeks and I don’t think we should rush into anything.

“We really want to make sure we can release all restrictions and not have to backtrack at all.”

Prof Horby also said it is “inevitable” that the Delta variant will spread across Europe, saying modelling predicted “it would be very difficult to control”.

And he warned “it’s going to be a bumpy tail” out of the pandemic, adding: “You’ve seen Sydney reintroduce lockdown measures. We’ve seen Israel reintroduce masks.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned not to ‘rush into’ easing restrictions before July 19

“We’ve seen the Alpha variant and now we’ve seen the Delta variant… and we will see many more.

“So we have to expect it will be a bumpy road out and there will be twists and turns that we’re not wishing to see.”

It comes as new Health Secretary Sajid Javid ignored shouted questions outside his new office about whether lockdown rules would end as planned on July 19.

But he told reporters: “We are still in a pandemic. I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible.

“And that will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible.”

With hopes of lockdown ending in the coming weeks, the NHS has said half of all adults aged under 30 in England will have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Sunday.

More than 4.2 million people aged between 18 and 29 have received a jab just three weeks after the coronavirus vaccination programme was opened up to those in their 20s.

According to NHS England data released on Saturday, a total of 64,089,251 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and June 25, including first and second doses.

NHS England said 36,944,843 were first doses, a rise of 177,515 on the previous day, while 27,144,408 were a second dose, an increase of 133,375.

More than four in five adults have now received their first jab and over 60% of people have received both doses, the NHS said.





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