Lockdowns are ‘awful’ and Britain must learn to live with Covid without restrictions, one of the country’s most senior scientists has warned.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the measures had had ‘very profound consequences’ on the nation’s mental health, education and jobs.
But he was hopeful that the Government would be able to open up on June 21 based on the data so far – but stressed the next few weeks would be ‘crucial.’
Sir Jeremy Farrar (pictured), director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the measures had had ‘very profound consequences’ on the nation’s mental health, education and jobs
He pointed out that more than eight in ten adults would be vaccinated by then, adding that he was ‘very confident’ the jabs were working.
‘There is a danger of not opening up and this infection is now a human endemic infection. It’s not going away,’ he said. ‘Humanity will live with this virus now for ever. And there will be new variants. This year, next year, the year after, there will be new variants – and we will have to learn to cope with that.
‘Lockdowns are awful. They are a mark that you haven’t been able to control the virus in other ways. They have very profound consequences on mental health, on education, on job opportunities particularly affecting people on lower incomes.
‘Societies can’t stay in that mode for ever.’
Earlier this week Boris Johnson said that while there was nothing in the data to suggest the June 21 ending of lockdown could not go ahead, the numbers were ‘still ambiguous’.
But Sir Jeremy said he was hopeful the jabs had ‘separated’ the inevitable rise of infections which comes with easing restrictions and the subsequent increase in hospitalisations.
Asked whether he thought the country would be able to open up on June 21, he added: ‘If you really push me today, I would say I’m more optimistic because I think that the vaccines have been so incredibly successful.’
Sir Jeremy Farrar he was hopeful that the Government would be able to open up on June 21 based on the data so far – but stressed the next few weeks would be ‘crucial’. Pictured: Families enjoy the weather in London, Britain, 01 June 2021
Covid cases jumped by more than 36 per cent in a week today, the eighth day in a row they have been above 3,000 and the second day in less than a week they have reached over 4,000
Twelve more lives were also lost to the virus today — rising a third on last Wednesday’s figure — after yesterday’s recording of zero bolstered calls for No10 to stick with its roadmap
He added that based on current data, although he would lift restrictions, sensible advice such as wearing a mask indoors should still be in place.
Sir Jeremy also said: ‘If hospitalisations have remained low and deaths have remained low, I would accept a degree of transmission and I would open up.
‘I think this is the hardest decision, frankly, of the last 18 months actually. I am optimistic in the sense that I do believe that vaccines are incredibly safe and very effective.’
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation which supports science to solve urgent health challenges and Sir Jeremy has been director since 2013.
He also said he believed the vaccines provided protection from the virus for at least a year and added: ‘I think the data is more reassuring that the immune response is stronger and is longer-lived than you could dare dream a year ago.’
But Sir Jeremy said it was now imperative that the UK and the other G7 nations – including the US, France, Germany and Japan – donated their available jabs to developing countries.
He is writing to Mr Johnson to ask him to offer up ten million of Britain’s doses over the next three months, which he claims would only set our vaccination campaign back by ten days.
Withholding the jabs from poorer nations would be ‘playing with fire’, he said, as it would only be a matter of time before a new and even deadlier strain emerged.
Only yesterday the Mail revealed how Whitehall officials were concerned about a new variant which had been detected in Nepal, as well as Portugal, the US, Japan and India, which may be more resistant to vaccines.
Sir Jeremy said: ‘There’s 1.4billion people in India and hundreds of millions in Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria.
‘It’s these huge populations with uncontrolled epidemics and no access to vaccines, that’s where a variant will come.’
Another Sage member said Covid vaccines have left the UK in a ‘much better place’ to end lockdown despite the emergence of new variants.
Professor John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also said that although the Government may ease restrictions on June 21, ‘it does not mean that people will necessarily take up the opportunity’. This combined with the vaccination programme means the UK is in a ‘better place’ to end restrictions.
n Children over 12 could be vaccinated against Covid by the end of the year, Sir Jeremy predicted. He also said jabs could be extended down to five-year-olds if they are safe and effective.