Two of the British government’s top scientific advisers have warned that lockdown restrictions are being lifted too early in England, raising the risk of a second wave of coronavirus infections.
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.
“The issue is, clearly there’s a need to try and get the economy restarted and people back to their jobs and so on, and also there’s a social and a mental health need to allow people to meet with their friends and families,” Edmunds told local media on Friday.
“I think many of us would prefer to see the incidence driven down to lower levels because that then means that we have fewer cases occurring before we relax the measures.”
He said easing the lockdown could pose a risk due to the “relatively high incidence and […] an untested track and trace system.”
He was referring to the rate of new daily infections, which is still at 8,000 in England.
“If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence,” said Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease modeling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“If there’s a 1% fatality rate, that’s about 80 deaths a day. If there’s 0.5%, that’s 40 deaths a day. So, that’s the number of deaths per day that we might expect to see going forward.”
His comments drew support from Farrar, who is the director of the medical charity Wellcome Trust.
“COVID-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. Agree with John & clear science advice,” he tweeted.
“TTI [test, trace, and isolate] has to be in place, fully working, capable dealing any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results & infection rates have to be lower. And trusted.”
With more than 274,200 COVID-19 cases and over 38,300 fatalities, the UK is one of the worst-hit regions in the pandemic, which has claimed over 366,600 lives worldwide.