A leading science adviser to the UK government has warned that the easing of Monday’s lockdown in England may have to be rolled back and also warned against meetings inside.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggested that the ban on indoor gatherings should have remained in place and may need to be re-imposed.
He said: “I think it’s reasonable to just make sense to know where the transmission is happening – mostly indoors… with a lot of different people, different families, different communities, and I would limit that for now, personally.
When asked if he would meet friends indoors, he replied, “No, I won’t be at the moment,” and added, “Getting together outdoors is a lot less risky. “
This echoes the preferences of fellow Sage members Professor Sir Mark Walport and Professor Catherine Noakes, who have urged the public to “Stay outside as much as you can”.
Farrar admitted it was “reasonable” to lift the restrictions now, but said it was “the most difficult political decision in the past 15 months”.
And he warned that the restrictions may have to be reintroduced, if hospital admissions increase in the coming weeks. He said: “We just need to get the information and be reassured that vaccines have dissociated an increased number of cases of people getting sick.”
He added: “We don’t know that yet and that’s why I think a very careful waiver is reasonable, but we may have to reverse that, if there is a vaccine loophole. “
Farrar said: “I think we’ll see an increase in cases and infections over the next few weeks, as some of the restrictions are lifted. The key question is whether we have decoupled the increase in transmission… from the number of people who get sick and have to go to hospital. If we decouple them, the country may face a marginal degree of increased transmission. “
He also suggested that travel restrictions may have to continue to prevent passengers from the UK from transmitting the variant of the coronavirus first detected in India to other countries.
Farrar said: “Britain is very connected, and it’s also a problem not only for importing new variants entering the country, but also for people traveling out of the country, there is a risk that this variant B.1.617 can be transmitted from the United Kingdom. … I think that travel should still be very careful and only when it is absolutely essential.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng defended lifting the restrictions.
He said: “There is nothing in the evidence now that we have seen that suggests the vaccine is not very effective against the Indian variant. “
However, speaking on Sky News, he said: “We cannot guarantee that everything will be fine. We will look at the data and make judgments, based on the data we see. So far, so good. We reopen on May 17th as we said, as we said. And now we have to see what’s going on. I am confident that we can arrive on June 21 and open normally, but I cannot guarantee that now.