Professor John Edmunds, who is part of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), renewed hopes in a relatively imminent end of the coronavirus lockdown. The expert said the UK should be “more or less free” of the worst effects of the virus by December, though some preventative rules could stay “probably forever”.
Prof Edmunds told ITV’s Robert Peston: “I think we will be more or less free of this by the end of this year… say Christmas.”
But he warned tougher restrictions were currently needed in order to curb the spread of new variants of the pathogen.
The expert said: “I think we do have to keep our borders pretty tight at the moment – nobody likes this.
“But we’ve identified these significant new variants that are out there and we need to be able to arm ourselves against them and we don’t have new vaccines that could potentially arm ourselves against these new variants yet.
“I know that companies are working very hard on developing new vaccines in order to protect against these potential new variants that might affect us so I do think we need to be very cautious at the moment about travel abroad.”
Prof Emunds also predicted the reopening of schools on March 8 would be “touch and go” as it is still unknown whether the reproduction rate, or R number, would surge above one – which shows an outbreak can grow exponentially.
However, he warned the return to the classrooms could potentially lead to a rise in the R number.
The Sage member said: “We’re not absolutely certain, it looks as if it would be touch and go.
“If we opened up schools I think that the reproduction number would get close to one and possibly exceed one.
“If we opened them up completely, if we opened secondary schools and primary schools both at the same time, I suspect we’d be lucky to keep the reproduction number below one…
“I think we have to do everything very gradually and see how it goes.”
More than 13 million people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK.