Scientists warn ‘too early to facilitate locking’ before ‘tempting’ hot weekend

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Fears that the foreclosure measures would be relaxed too soon by ministers have been voiced by a number of scientists who advise the government on the Covid-19 epidemic.

Professor Peter Horby of the University of Oxford joined scientists Sir Jeremy Farrar and Professor John Edmunds, all members of the Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (Sage), to warn that the ministers were taking risks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a gradual easing of the foreclosure in England, with friends and families able to gather in parks and gardens in socially distant groups of six from Monday.

HEALTH Coronavirus (PA graphics)

Easing the lockdown on England will also mean reopening schools to allow nursery, early childhood, reception, year 1 and year 6 students to return to class, and the reopening of more stores, with outdoor retail stores and car showrooms capable of resuming operations. .

When asked if he agreed that it was too early to further facilitate the lockdown, Professor Horby told BBC Radio 4 Today: “Actually, I do.

“You know, we still have 8,000 cases a day. We have been very successful in reducing it, reducing the numbers because of social isolation. “

But he said it was vital “that we don’t lose control anymore.”

One of the big problems, he said, was the NHS Test and Trace system, which has been rolled out across England with the help of 25,000 contact plotters.

But the program will not be operational at the local level until the end of next month, while a support application is delayed by several weeks.

Professor Horby added: “Sage has always been very clear that this must be in place and fully operational before social distancing can be relaxed safely.

“We do not know exactly what the effect of the relaxation of social measures will be, so we need to have the safety net of the test, trace and isolation system.

“And, as we know, it is not yet fully operational. I think that’s where the risk lies.

“We are entering a period where there is a risk of increased transmission, but we do not yet have this safety net in place.

“Coming back to a situation where we have lost control again is much worse than a week or two of social measures.”

Asked about the possibility of a second spike in the Covid-19 cases, Professor Horby said, “This is the risk that concerns us all a lot.

“This is a fragile time. We have to be very careful. “

Professor Edmunds told Sky News that officials “are trying to replace these general measures with a much more targeted approach, this tracking and tracing, where instead of everyone being locked out, you put the ones who are the most at risk locked out for a few weeks. ”

Spring weather May 25, 2020
People enjoy the warm weather on Bournemouth Beach in Dorset this past weekend (PA)

But, as the new system did not start until Thursday, he added, “We cannot be sure it is working effectively yet, and yet we are going ahead and making these changes anyway. “

Sir Jeremy also said that the new NHS test and traceability system must “work fully” before the measures are relaxed.

He wrote on Twitter: “Covid-19 is spreading too quickly to lift the lock in England. Agree with John and clear scientific advice.

“The TTI (test, trace and isolation) must be in place, fully operational, capable of treating any overvoltage immediately, reactive locally, rapid results and infection rates must be lower. And trust. “

The comments come as Britain is ready for a weekend of high temperatures and police have urged the public to follow the existing guarantees for social contact before restrictions are cut from Monday.

Downing Street has warned the public that meetings are only allowed after the weekend.

Wiltshire Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said, “I know we are entering another weekend where the weather looks fantastic and beautiful, and this will give us many temptations to go outside. and maybe meet friends and relatives we haven’t seen. for a while, and maybe coming together in big groups, but, quite simply, the rules and regulations will not allow this this weekend. ”



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