A leading scientist has said on Tuesday that the full lifting of restrictions in England must be delayed “probably a month until schools have closed,” due to the impact of the Indian variant.
There is growing doubt among scientists whether Boris Johnson will meet stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown on 21 June as the Indian variant is spreading across the UK.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) warned that with the easing on 17 May, this could lead to “quite a lot” of hospital admissions.
Professor Gupta, of clinical microbiology of the University of Cambridge told Sky News, “I think we need at least a few weeks – probably a month until schools have closed, when the risk of transmission within schools falls during summer holidays,” he said.
“It then gives us another four weeks’ worth of data to collect about how the [Indian variant of the] virus is growing in the population, what sort of rate it is growing at, how it is doing relative to the previous strain B117.
“And also how effective our vaccines are against this new virus.
“All of that information is coming in weekly and it will enable us to build up a better picture whilst staying safe and maintaining the gains we made through that really painful three of four months we had.”
He warned the Indian variant offers a “real risk now of generalised transmission in young people who are not vaccinated and, of course, school age children as well as those who are vulnerable and haven’t responded to the vaccine.”
Professor Gupta added, “We’ve got to a really good position and the easing has been well done so far.
“But we’ve obviously got this complicating factor which is this new virus that was identified in India… which has a new set of properties that we did not anticipate happening.
“We really should be making sure we think about what we’re doing in the context of this new, unknown virus.”
British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul added, “The Government must hold off making a final decision on whether lockdown is fully lifted on June 21 until latest data can be scientifically considered.
“The Prime Minister had pledged he would be guided by ‘data not dates,’ and it’s vital that he now honours this commitment.”