EASING lockdown over summer could lead to a FOURTH wave of coronavirus, scientists have warned.
A doom-laden report to the government’s advisers claims vaccines are “insufficient” to allow the UK to go back to normality “within the year” – despite Boris Johnson’s pledge to start lifting restrictions in weeks.
Even with the successful vaccine rollout, the dossier prepared for the Sage group of scientists claims there could be a further 130,000 Covid deaths between now and next June if the lockdown is scrapped.
Long-suffering Brits have had to endure three lockdowns already – and senior Cabinet members have insisted the current one must be the last.
Pubs, restaurants, shops and many other businesses are already on the brink of collapse after being shuttered for almost a year.
And families – in particular children stuck at home instead of school – are desperate for a return to normal life.
But the studies, released yesterday by Sage, suggests there we could be back to 750 Covid deaths a day in England by November, with 20,000 people in hospital fighting the virus.
It seems to fly in the face of current data, which suggests that England’s R rate is now below 1 for the first time since July.
The official figure – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid on to – is now between 0.7 and 0.9, Sage said yesterday.
New data has revealed that cases of the virus have plummeted by 70 per cent since New Year’s Day.
And our vaccine rollout – one of the best in the world – has seen nearly 11 million Brits inoculated.
Just yesterday the Oxford/AstraZeneca team announced their vaccine does protect against the Kent strain.
But while both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines cut transmission by 60 per cent, the research said it might be insufficient to fight the more aggressive Covid mutations.
Researchers looked at how things would roll out if restrictions were eased from the end of February to the beginning of September.
Researchers at Warwick University said: “We see that even with the highest possible uptake and fastest vaccination programme, full relaxation by the time schools return in September would still result in significant further disease.”
Professor Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College London warned the R-rate could climb as high as four, with an additional 130,800 fatalities between now and June next year.
Both research models were produced by the Sage subgroup SPI-M and discussed at a meeting attended by Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty on January 14.
However, they suggest that easing restrictions to last summer’s level, with six people allowed to meet inside, will only create “minimal” further virus burden.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in January that this third lockdown will be the last – and that any need to adapt vaccines to fight new strains will be done quickly.
The Chancellor also believes that this needs to be the last lockdown – and lifting restrictions shouldn’t be concerned with squashing case numbers.
The Prime Minister has vowed to reveal a roadmap out of lockdown by February 22.
And Brits will soon be allowed to socialise with pals outside and play sport, in the first stage of the easing of the Covid lockdown.
Open-air contact is set to be prioritised in Boris’ planned reopening of England in the spring and summer.
The number of new Covid infections yesterday were down by more than a third in a week as almost 20 per cent fewer patients died.
A total of 3,911,573 have now tested positive for the bug in the UK since the start of the pandemic while 111,264 have lost their lives.
But yesterday’s rise in infections is almost 10,000 fewer (34 per cent) than last Friday’s jump when another 29,079 cases were confirmed.
The rise in deaths is also 18.5 per cent smaller than it was last Friday, when 1,245 fatalities were recorded.