Covid UK: Ex-Chief Scientific Adviser warns ditching lockdown is risky

Covid UK: Ex-Chief Scientific Adviser warns ditching lockdown is risky

July 6, 2021

Doom-monger ex-Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King warns scrapping lockdown ‘in one go’ on July 19 is ‘very, very risky’ and claims the number of Covid deaths will rise ‘within three weeks’ – even though most adults have received vaccine

  • Sir David King has warned that the decision to remove most lockdown measures on July 19 is ‘very, very risky’
  • Ex-Chief Scientific Adviser claimed number of people dying with Covid will rise dramatically in three weeks
  • He also warned that hundreds of thousands of people could ‘suffer life shortening’ due to ‘long Covid’ 
  • It comes as Chris Whitty warned Britain will not return to a pre-pandemic normal until at least next Spring 

A former Chief Scientific Adviser has warned that the decision to remove most lockdown measures on July 19 is ‘very, very risky’ and claimed that the number of people dying with coronavirus will rise dramatically within three weeks – despite most adults being vaccinated. 

Sir David King, the chairman of so-called Independent SAGE, said he was shocked to learn that Boris Johnson is pushing ahead with plans to scrap restrictions including compulsory mask-wearing and social distancing in England from the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ in two weeks.

Giving a gloomy prognosis to Sky News today, he also warned that hundreds of thousands of people could ‘suffer life shortening’ due to the effects of so-called ‘long Covid’.

Sir David said: ‘I just actually can’t quite believe that in one step we will remove all of the requirements that have been placed on us, including wearing face masks when indoors, when on trains etc – public transport, including not having children aged 12 to 18 vaccinated.

‘All of this seems a very, very risky way forward to me, so I think what we will have to expect is that after July 19 we will see the doubling rate of the disease, which is currently nine days – that we may well see it go up shorter, and this would be despite the fact that more people will have been vaccinated. 

‘There’s another problem with this very sharp rise in the numbers. What we must also anticipate within three to five weeks of this sharp rise is a sharp rise in the number of people dying per day. Now all of this seems to me very risky, but the third risk is long Covid. 

‘So at the moment we know that roughly one million people in the country have suffered from long Covid, which means they have had Covid symptoms for more than 12 weeks. But of those, 385,000 have had Covid for more than 12 months. 

‘Now this is really rather terrifying, so we musn’t just focus on the number dying. We must look at the long-term impact on these otherwise would-be healthy people who just haven’t been able to shake this off – and these people will suffer from life shortening due to the impact this has on their inner organs, their lungs. 

‘So I think if we take it all in all, it just seems to me to be very, very risky after this long period again of lockdown. So I think yes, vaccination is extremely successful, but for a government to rely on one means of managing this epidemic to me seems really quite remarkable. It’s a very risky programme.’

It comes as Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that Britain will not return to a pre-pandemic normal until at least next Spring while lockdown restrictions could be reimposed this winter – even though Cabinet ministers are pressing ahead with easing curbs from July 19. 

As the coronavirus crisis reaches its latest crucial phase, it emerged:

  • Britain’s daily Covid hospital admissions have reached a four month high, rising by 50 per cent in a week;
  • Department of Health figures posted today also showed hospitalisations reached 406 on June 30;
  • Shops, pubs and airlines that continue mask rules after July 19 have a legal right to turn away customers;
  • Sajid Javid revealed the requirement for the double-jabbed to self-isolate will not be dropped until August 16;
  • School bubbles to be scrapped but isolation rules for children of positive cases will stay in place until August;
  • Six of the ten areas worst-hit by Covid in Europe are currently in Scotland, according to data;
  • England and Wales recorded more deaths last year during pandemic than at anytime since the Spanish flu;
  • Leave voters are more willing than Remainers to ditch masks when laws demanding their use are scrapped.

Sir David King, chairman of the so-called Independent SAGE, said he was shocked to learn that Boris Johnson is pushing ahead with plans to scrap restrictions including compulsory mask-wearing and social distancing in England from the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ in two weeks

It comes as Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that Britain will not return to a pre-pandemic normal until at least next Spring while lockdown restrictions could be reimposed this winter – even though Cabinet ministers are pressing ahead with easing curbs from July 19

Britain’s daily Covid hospital admissions have reached a four month high, rising by 50 per cent in a week. Department of Health figures also showed hospitalisations reached 406 on June 30

Furious businesses accuse ministers of ‘carnage’ that could tip them over the brink after Sajid Javid delays axing of self-isolation rules for double-jabbed and children until AUGUST 16 – dooming around 4.6m people a WEEK to house arrest 

Furious businesses accused ministers of causing ‘carnage’ that could tip them over the brink today after Sajid Javid revealed the requirement for the double-jabbed to self-isolate will not be dropped until August 16.

The Health Secretary announced the rules on what people must do when they are ‘pinged’ for contact with an infected individual will stay in place for weeks after so-called ‘Freedom Day’ – despite rising alarm at the chaos and misery being inflicted.

From the middle of next month people who have received two doses – with the second administered at least two weeks previously – can take PCR tests rather than self-isolating. Under-18s will also not be subject to the restrictions from the same date.

But the timetable means ‘scary’ numbers will be caught in the system after all other restrictions lift on July 19, with furious firms warning they are on the brink of disaster amid ‘massive’ problems of staff absence and customers bailing out out of bookings. Others also raged that the government is failing to provide any clarity on the rules for getting staff back in offices.

Mr Javid told the Commons that ministers had looked at changing the isolation rules sooner, but were ‘more comfortable’ waiting until even more people are vaccinated.

The grim news came after Mr Javid admitted coronavirus cases could top 100,000 a day by the summer as the government pushes ahead with the unlocking.

The Adam Smith Institute estimated that an increase on that scale will mean 4.6million people a week being asked to self-isolate by Test and Trace call handlers or the NHS app.

Speaking to the Local Government Association on Tuesday, Professor Whitty said: ‘There will almost certainly be a Covid surge [in winter] and that will be on top of a return to a more normal respiratory surge.

 ‘It’s going to take quite a long time, I think, to get back to normality and I certainly would be surprised if we got back to what most of us would see as a kind of status quo – before the pandemic – by the next spring. 

‘Because I think we’ve got this current wave, hopefully there will be a period of quieter Covid after that, and then it will still be quite a difficult winter, especially for the NHS – then by next spring I’m hoping slightly more into a more predictable pattern.’

Yesterday, Professor Whitty backed the Government’s plans to push ahead with July 19 in the face of surging infection numbers. He claimed that delaying lockdown beyond July 19 will not reduce the number of Covid deaths and could potentially lead to a worse peak in winter.

Joining the Prime Minister at the podium of a Downing Street press conference last night, the CMO acknowledged that while some restrictions will always be better than none in terms of containing Covid, at some point they have to be released for the sake of the economy and impact on wider health.  

With that in mind, Professor Whitty revealed he believed ‘quite strongly’ that there are many benefits to unlocking now rather than waiting until autumn – which some have suggested could buy No10 time to get every adult fully vaccinated.

It would get the big bang of Covid infections and hospital admissions – expected when social distancing comes to an end – out of the way in summer when the NHS is less busy.

‘At a certain point, you move to the situation where instead of actually averting hospitalisations and deaths, you move over to just delaying them,’ he said.

‘So you’re not actually changing the number of people who will go to hospital or die, you may change when they happen.

‘There is quite a strong view by many people, including myself actually, that going in the summer has some advantages, all other things being equal, to opening up into the autumn when schools are going back and when we’re heading into the winter period when the NHS tends to be under greatest pressure for many other reasons.’ 

Prof Whitty said he expects people who contract the Delta variant to be affected by long Covid at similar rates to previous strains. But he said soaring case rates will mean more unvaccinated people will be struck by the disorder, defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks.

‘Since there’s a lot of Covid at the moment and the rates are going up, I regret to say I think we will get a significant amount more long Covid particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower,’ he said.

It follows warnings last night that allowing virus cases to rise is a ‘significant risk’, restrictions may need to return this winter and life may never return completely to normal.

In a downbeat assessment, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said that even if hospitalisations and deaths remained low, there were major risks in letting cases surge. The group said that should a ‘variant of concern’ arrive that threatened immunity, lockdown restrictions would need to reimposed for much longer.

In documents released last night which advised on controlling the virus long-term, SAGE warned that some ‘baseline measures’ may have to stay, with ‘sustained behavioural change’ necessary.

The experts said self-isolation when ill would remain ‘critical’ and working from home was a ‘highly effective’ long-term option. And in a grim sign that Britons face a return of some curbs in the near future, SAGE added: ‘Stronger measures may be desirable for autumn and winter.’

The rise in coronavirus cases has been driving up the numbers forced to self-isolate after being ‘pinged’ – with the trend now set to continue into the middle of August

More than 100 Britons could die each day from Covid when Britain finally emerges from lockdown later this month, according to the Government’s own assumptions

UK holidaymakers ‘on the edge of their seats’ ahead of announcement on quarantine-free travel for fully jabbed Britons visiting amber list countries – amid concern over WHEN it will come into effect, with tens of thousands of jobs on the line 

Britons desperate for European getaway are ‘in the edge of their seats’ waiting to see if quarantine-free travel to amber list countries will rescue their summer.

Grant Shapps is set to unveil the plans to allow UK citizens who have been fully jabbed to sidestep self-isolation at home later this week.

These countries currently include holiday hotpots like Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and France.

Travel chiefs have demanded clarity after Boris Johnson failed to say when the new system would start double.

But Sajid Javid told MPs last night that quarantine-free holidays for double-jabbed travellers would happen ‘very soon’.

Paul Charles, chief executive at The PC Agency, said: ‘The sooner there is clarity the better for consumers, who are on the edge of their seats waiting to know whether their trips are going to be able to go ahead.

‘But also the sooner the better for the travel and tourism sector who are desperately waiting for information on when the fully jabbed will get more freedom to travel without having to quarantine on their return.’

Ministers ruffled business feathers today, by announcing that domestic self-isolation will remain until the middle of August.

And Mr Charles added: ‘If that date applies also for overseas travel then it won’t protect tens of thousands of jobs and it won’t save the rest of the summer, which is what the industry needs. It would be far too late and unnecessary because the jabs are working.’

At a press conference last night Professor Whitty said some social distancing would still be required beyond July 19. In a sign of his concern, he said the epidemic was ‘clearly significant and rising’ and emphasised that decisions were ‘made by ministers, not by scientific advisers or medical advisers’.

He added: ‘Within the scientific views on this, there was a really clear consensus that under all circumstance some degree of further social distancing needs to be maintained even after the restrictions are lifted in law.’

It suggests Boris Johnson’s plan to lift all restrictions on July 19 may be at odds with the views of some of his scientific advisers, although Downing Street insists most of the PM’s advisers back his approach. SAGE said there were ‘many advantages’ to keeping infections down even with low hospitalisation and death rates.

It said: ‘It makes it easier to prevent a return to rapid growth in the epidemic which could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed. Lower infection rates will also reduce impact of post-Covid syndromes and allow more NHS capacity to be used for routine care. There is significant risk in allowing prevalence to rise, even if hospitalisations and deaths are kept low by vaccination.

‘If it were necessary to reduce prevalence to low levels again (eg. because of a new variant of concern) then restrictive measures would be required for much longer.’

Infections are currently at the highest level since January, and Mr Johnson acknowledged they are likely to reach 50,000 a day within a fortnight and that hospitalisations and deaths will keep rising.

He said: ‘I don’t want people to feel this the end of Covid – it is very far from the end.’ Officials have consistently said there can be no complete return to pre-pandemic life after July 19.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said people must change their behaviour in light of rising cases. He said: ‘We are in the face of an increasing epidemic at the moment and therefore we need to behave accordingly.’

One SAGE document assessing what long-term or ‘baseline’ measures will be needed after July 19 said: ‘Keeping some level of measures in place both through summer and beyond would significantly decrease ongoing transmission.’

It concluded that ongoing measures and sustained long-term behavioural change will be required to control a resurgence in infections – particularly in the winter.

The scientists said self-isolation ‘needs to become routine’ for anyone with symptoms, quarantine after international travel is ‘important’ and local measures, potentially including lockdowns, will be needed ‘in all scenarios’.

They also concluded that working from home is highly effective at cutting the spread and recommended ongoing physical distancing and the use of masks.

The Chief Medical Officer said hospitals could be in for a ‘very difficult’ period over the colder months as they grapple with spikes in Covid and flu admissions, as well as the normal winter pressures.  

Professor Whitty said: ‘The winter is inevitably going to be tricky and the NHS is likely to have both Covid and some resurgence of other respiratory viruses that were suppressed by the degree of lockdown last time round.  

‘So I think we should be realistic and this coming winter may be very difficult for the NHS.’

Asked directly if Covid restrictions could go into reverse, Mr Johnson said he would ‘have to take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public’. 

It came despite the PM previously promising the roadmap out of lockdown would be ‘irreversible’. 

Professor Whitty admitted that SAGE was still split over whether the final stage of the roadmap should go ahead because the epidemic is still growing.

In a bold shift, Boris Johnson told a Downing Street briefing that the government will no longer issue ‘top down’ orders after July 19 and people must use their common sense to manage the risks

Boris Johnson pushed the button on a ‘big bang’ Freedom Day unlocking with social distancing rules, mask laws and the work from home order set to go

But he warned that delaying the reopening any further could push the the third wave into the winter and cause an even larger peak. 

The CMO acknowledged there was a ‘mixed’ view among scientists on the timing of lifting restrictions, and that he had ‘quite a strong view’ that doing so in summer has advantages over autumn.

He said: ‘The view is more mixed about exactly what the right timing is from a technical point of view, even before you get into issues that the Prime Minister has to deal with more widely.

‘And these really come from the fact that at a certain point, you move to the situation where instead of actually averting hospitalisations and deaths, you move over to just delaying them.

‘So you’re not actually changing the number of people who will go to hospital or die, you may change when they happen.

‘And there is quite a strong view by many people, including myself actually, that going in the summer has some advantages, all other things being equal, to opening up into the autumn when schools are going back and when we’re heading into the winter period when the NHS tends to be under greatest pressure for many other reasons.

‘So it’s a very much more difficult technical decision now, even before ministers have to grapple with all the other things, than it was in terms of the four-week delay where I think there was a very substantial degree of scientific agreement.’

Both Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, No10’s chief scientific adviser are among those arguing that ‘if not now then when’.    

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