Sir Tim Gowers – whose herd immunity argument helped trigger England’s first lockdown last year – said there is a danger the Indian variant could “pick up speed and become a big problem “.
Speaking to the Guardian, he added that the downside of being “a little more careful” is far less than the downside associated with being wrong.
Concerns are growing about the next big step in England’s roadmap to end the lockdown on June 21, when all legal limits on social contact are expected to be lifted.
Sir Tim, professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, said he did not necessarily think these plans were in jeopardy, but stressed that the government should take great care in assessing data relating to the spread of the Indian variant.
He told the newspaper that Boris Johnson, who has treated every step of the roadmap as irreversible, could end up being “extremely reluctant” to undo the end of lockdowns on June 21 if infection rates and admissions at the hospital get worse “because it would be a big U-turn, an embarrassing descent”.
The teacher added, “So I think if that’s the way you’re going to play things, then you should be very, very careful about every step you take… and maybe everything. [will] ok, maybe the number of people vaccinated will be just enough… ‘R’ will remain overall less than one even with the Indian variants.
“But if it’s not right, we know, because of the math, things are going to go wrong very, very quickly. Or at least, maybe it won’t seem so fast at first, but it will grow exponentially. So that ‘I’m going to pick up speed and become a big deal. “
Yesterday, other scientists expressed fears that England did not appear “on track” to move to the final stage of the lockdown.
Professor Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage group, told Sky News that the final stage of reopening should not take place until more adults receive two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
She added: “The R number is still based on data a few weeks old and the number of cases in England this week has been quite high. “
Friday, daily infections exceeded 4000 for the first time since April 1. Overall, England’s coronavirus cases are increasing by up to 3% every day.
The latest R (reproduction) number is estimated to be between 1.0 and 1.1 – down from 0.9 to 1.1 last week.
This means that on average, every 10 people infected with COVID-19[feminine[feminine will infect between 10 and 11 others.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there was nothing in the current data to suggest England’s next step could be delayed.
He added that a final decision would not be taken until June 14, and warned that it was “impossible for anyone to know what the situation would look like in a week or two.”
According to The Times, face mask requirements could remain in place beyond June 21 if the Indian variant continues to rise – along with advice encouraging people to work from home.
The newspaper said ministers are increasingly concerned that the variant will disrupt the roadmap and are exploring contingency plans that could mean the lockdown only partially ends.
Top priorities should include ending the ‘one meter plus’ distancing rule and the ‘rule of six’ indoors, allowing the hospitality and retail industries to return to normal.