Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has said there is no need for a lockdown if the rapid increase of Omicron cases appear to be slowing.
He told the PA news agency that measures such as social distancing and lockdowns “never ultimately prevent infection unless eradication is a possibility.”
He warned that lockdowns ultimatley “delay the inevitable” so the main issue is all about flattening the peak.
Professor Hunter added, “What they do is flatten the curve and delay the inevitable. Sometimes that is sufficient if the epidemic would overwhelm the health service, or if effective new treatments or vaccines are coming.
“No new treatments or vaccines are likely to come soon so the issue is all about flattening the peak.
“But if you flatten the peak you prolong the epidemic, or as we say, ‘the area under the curve remains the same’.”
However he warned that should Omicron continues to double every two days “then it would not be long before we got to seriously high numbers that would eventually put the NHS under a dreadful strain and under some predictions could ultimately overwhelm the NHS.”
Professor Hunter said that under some modelling scenarios should the government have a “lockdown after Christmas would probably be too late.”
He added, “If restrictions are not needed then they would only delay illness and prolong the impact on health services as well as the other negative impacts that lockdowns have on our wellbeing.”
He said the “latest data suggests that total case numbers, and therefore Omicron, may already have plateaued or even peaked.
“Indeed, infection numbers may have fallen slightly in the last few days.”
He said that on Wednesday more data will be published, which will make the trend clearer, and told Times Radio that “it looks as though this previous rapid increase may have slowed quite dramatically, and if that is the case, then there probably isn’t a need for a lockdown.”