Professor Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose initial modeling helped shape the UK response to the coronavirus, said future lockdowns are unlikely to be needed to control the spread of the disease in the UK.
However, the government’s scientific adviser warned that the number of Covid cases could rise again and his prediction could change if the virus “changes significantly”.
In an interview with The Times, Ferguson said it was still likely there would be a higher number of deaths each year than before as the world learns to live with the virus, just as deaths are caused by flu every winter.
Ferguson, who withdrew from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in May last year after a visit from his girlfriend who broke social distancing rules but remains a member of other advisory committees in the government, said it was “unlikely that we would need further lockdown or even social distancing measures of the kind we’ve had so far.”
He said that with an increase in social contact, Britain could “reach another point where we start to see the number of cases increase again”, although at least the vaccines have “changed the relationship between cases and hospitalization ”.
He also expressed sympathy for Matt Hancock following the disclosure of the case of the former Health Secretary, who broke social distancing rules, rather than calling him a hypocrite for his criticism when the privacy of Ferguson grabbed the headlines.
Overall, he said the UK, like elsewhere, should likely accept the continued presence of Covid-19 as a potentially deadly threat.
“I suspect that for several years we will see additional mortality,” he said. “There is a risk in winter of thousands to tens of thousands of additional deaths. “
The epidemiologist said if Boris Johnson had ordered the first lockdown a week earlier than in March of last year, Britain’s first wave would have been cut in half and ‘maybe … three-quarters’, saving more of 25,000 lives.