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Summer of freedom could be brought to crashing end by FOURTH coronavirus wave, scientists warn


SUMMER freedoms may be capped once again by a fourth Covid wave, scientists fear.

The roadmap out of lockdown has given hope for a world without restrictions by June 21 at the earliest – with even the return of packed nightclubs.

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Modelling from Sage shows that even with a slow lockdown easing, there could be a third - and potentially a fourth - wave of the virus later this year

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Modelling from Sage shows that even with a slow lockdown easing, there could be a third – and potentially a fourth – wave of the virus later this year

But scientists say it’s unlikely the fun will last very long because of a resurgence in cases. 

Modelling shows that even with the slow unlocking planned, there will be an unavoidable third wave which could see several thousand die.

And this could drag on for months, potentially causing a fourth wave in the autumn when schools and universities return.

Even with all adults invited for their jab by July, there will still be a proportion of the population who are unvaccinated – enough to allow the virus to make a comeback once restrictions are lifted.

Martin Hibberd, a professor of emerging infectious disease, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Looking at the modelling, I have a worry that September this year will be very similar to September last year.”

If the restrictions returned to those in place last September, it would mean a banning of any social gathering above six people.

Restaurants, bars and cafes could only offer table service and close at the curfew time, and customers would have to wear face masks other than when seated. 

The Prime Minister yesterday acknowledged that scientific modelling suggested that lifting lockdown measures would increase Covid-19 cases and ultimately deaths.

He said there was no route to “zero Covid” for Britain –  but insisted the restrictions could not continue indefinitely.

However, he said there was “no guarantee” that more restrictions may not be needed should the outbreak take another turn.

Prof Hibberd said: “With some luck, I think we may escape the predicted huge increase in cases in June and July (thanks to the vaccines being better than we thought).

“All the modelling predictions come with an expectation of variation, so some predictions are worse than others because of inherent unknown differences.”

But Prof Hibberd said if we do avoid a surge in cases, we will “end up too relaxed and then be wide open for new vaccine escape variants to arrive and drive up the cases for September”.

He told The Sun: “I see the main risk to the long-term lifting of restrictions is the development of new variants of the virus that are able to evade the immune response generated to existing variants and the vaccines.

“As the population immune immunity rises, mostly due to the large-scale successful vaccination, these escape variants will have a selective advantage [over the current dominant variants] and could become the most common type of infection.”

Contact tracing could stay on top of these cases of new variants, but Prof Hibberd noted the current system was not considered robust enough.

And cases would only increase due to lifting restrictions, making contact tracing “increasingly hard”.

Prof Hibberd said: “We may find that by September, these vaccine escape variants have increased to sufficient numbers to initiate a new outbreak that would require the whole population to be targeted with new vaccines all over again.

“Finding those new variants early and preventing their spread [with contact tracing] before they become entrenched, will give us the best chance of starting any new vaccinations.”

Modelling shows that even with the slow unlocking planned (scenario number five), there will be an unavoidable third wave which could see several thousand die

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Modelling shows that even with the slow unlocking planned (scenario number five), there will be an unavoidable third wave which could see several thousand die
June is tipped to be when all restrictions on social contact are lifted

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June is tipped to be when all restrictions on social contact are lifted

Vaccines are showing early signs of working to suppress both severe disease and transmission of the virus.

But there is always the threat that a new variant will emerge that can escape the effects of the vaccine.

This could come from either abroad – which is why the Government has put in tougher border controls – or from within the UK if cases are too high.

It comes after the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said some Covid measures may be needed in the winter.

Speaking about the possibility of restrictions in future, Sir Patrick told the Downing Street Briefing: “It’s possible that coming into next winter in particular, certain things may be necessary.

“And Tony Fauci yesterday said in the US that he thought that things like masks may be needed next winter.

“I think we’re in the same position that it may be necessary next winter to have things like mask-wearing in certain situations.

“Hand hygiene should remain part of the norm. Making sure that if we get the sorts of symptoms that we know are associated with Covid we stay off work.

“Having an effective test, trace and isolate system still in place will be an important part of the baseline measures that we’re talking about.

“And taking individual responsibility for thinking about where there’s an environment in which there could be a risk particularly during the winter months, are the sorts of things that I think we should expect for next winter.”

Sir Patrick said the “miracle” of vaccines created a “bedrock” to ease lockdown restrictions in England.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the aim was to move to “personal responsibility” rather than having social distancing laws “that get in the way of normal life”.

 

 

“Patrick Vallance was clear yesterday that mask wearing in winter is one of the examples of things that might need to stay,” he told Times Radio Tuesday morning. 

“What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives.

“But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.

“In the same way that for instance we live with flu, but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.

“But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life.”

Public health officials expect the need for repeated vaccination programmes every year, as is the case with flu.

And scientists are already working on tweaked vaccines to be ready by the autumn, should a new variant cause chaos.

But even with the success that is vaccine technology, one expert said it will not wipe the virus out.

Prof Lawrence Young, virologist and oncologist at University of Warwick, said: “Just worldwide, you’re not going to be able to contain this virus.

“There’s already millions of people infected, we know that it’s going to continue infecting.

“And we know that whatever restrictions that we put in place, whatever we do, with vaccinations, etc it’s not going to stop them.

“I think that’s why it’s really quite difficult, if not impossible, to have a sort of zero Covid strategy really in this country.”





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