New lockdown unlikely, experts say

Charlie Pugh cautiously delivers the good news the UK has been waiting to hear

Charlie Pugh
25th May 2021
Image Credit: Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Professor Neil Ferguson, a mathematical epidemiologist and virus modeller told the BBC the UK is unlikely to have another lockdown. This summer “we will have many fewer restrictions. Whether we have none at all it's too early to say.”

Viral strands still pose some risk, but the extensive vaccination program will likely dampen their effect on re-opening. Professor Fergusen also acknowledged the possibility that some Covid measures would need to be reinstated. “Do I think it's likely to happen? No, I don’t. I think we are much more likely to be on a steady course now out of this pandemic, at least in this country.”

“We are much more likely to be on a steady course now out of this pandemic”

Prof Ferguson, “Architect of the Lockdown”

Recorded Covid cases in the UK have dropped from about 80,000 on 29th December to 2000 on 8th May. Additionally, at the time of writing, one third of the adult population is fully vaccinated and two-thirds have received the first dose, with more than 50 million doses administered, according to government data.

That isn’t to say that cases won't surge in the coming months. According to Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operations Research Unit, “high vax rates alone are not necessarily enough to stop a surge in cases.” Colin Cox, Director of Public Health for Cumbria, said “I think we may well see a third wave and it may be Autumn or Winter”. Both, however, agree with Professor Ferguson’s evaluation that another lockdown is unlikely, despite the possible surge.

Image Credit: Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Due to widespread vaccination, the effects of Covid are being reduced nationwide, says Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology. “Even if people get coronavirus, they are far less likely to end up in hospital or to die,” says Mr Cox, “because of that, there is little risk the NHS will be overwhelmed and therefore no justification for another lockdown.” Professor Spector agrees. Citing lower hospitalisation rates with COVID-19, he puts the chances of the NHS being overwhelmed this winter as “extremely unlikely”.

“Even if people get coronavirus, they were far less likely to end up in hospital or to die.”

Colin Cox, Director of Public Health, Cumbria

Though Mr Cox doubts there will be another lockdown, “[if we] see another variant come into the fray, then all bets are off.” Experts agree that a mutation of COVID-19 is a threat to re-opening, which is why the government is investing nearly £30 million into their Porter Downs lab. Their capacity is being expanded to 3000 blood tests a week in order to test and improve vaccine efficacy against new strands. Previous vaccinations would likely provide some protection against variants, but government vigilance will still be crucial to prevent another lockdown.

Image Credit: Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

As Covid becomes less deadly, “lockdown is not the only option to control this,” says Professor Lewis. Methods like stemming outbreaks, continuing vaccination, and supporting those who need to quarantine will likely replace lockdowns in the coming months.

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