Freedom may only last for WEEKS: Experts raise fears of another autumn lockdown

Freedom may only last for WEEKS: Experts raise fears of another autumn lockdown
Freedom may only last for WEEKS: Experts raise fears of another autumn lockdown

Allowing virus cases to rise is a 'significant risk', restrictions may need to return this winter and life may never return completely to normal, Government scientists warned last night.

In a downbeat assessment, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said that even if hospitalisations and deaths remained low, there were major risks in letting cases surge.

The group said that should a 'variant of concern' arrive that threatened immunity, lockdown restrictions would need to reimposed for much longer. 

In documents released last night which advised on controlling the virus long-term, Sage warned that some 'baseline measures' may have to stay, with 'sustained behavioural change' necessary.

Sir Patrick Vallance Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, Chris Whitty, attend Downing Street Covid press conference

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Sir Patrick Vallance Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, Chris Whitty, attend Downing Street Covid press conference

The experts said self-isolation when ill would remain 'critical' and working from home was a 'highly effective' long-term option. And in a grim sign that Britons face a return of some curbs in the near future, Sage added: 'Stronger measures may be desirable for autumn and winter.'

Cases on rise but 'the NHS will cope' 

The NHS will meet the challenge of rising Covid cases and 'learn to live with' the virus, health leaders insisted yesterday.

Professor Chris Whitty said that there is likely to be a surge in hospital admissions as Britain unlocks and the health service will also face a 'very tricky winter'. But he added that the NHS 'will cope with anything'.

There are currently 1,905 Covid-19 patients in NHS hospitals. This is double the number of one month ago, but down from a peak of almost 40,000 in January. Professor Whitty said hospital admissions could reach 'quite high numbers' but are unlikely to be as bad as previous waves.

Latest data shows infections are up 53 per cent in a week and yesterday another 27,335 cases and nine deaths were recorded in the UK.

NHS England's medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: 'We're well used to coping with pressures. We are prepared and, as you have seen over the last 18 months of the pandemic, the NHS will manage.'

 

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At a press conference last night chief medical officer Chris Whitty said some social distancing would still be required beyond July 19.

In a sign of his concern, he said the epidemic was 'clearly significant and rising' and emphasised that decisions were 'made by ministers, not by scientific advisers or medical advisers'.

He added: 'Within the scientific views on this, there was a really clear consensus that under all circumstance some degree of further social distancing needs to be maintained even after the restrictions are lifted in law.'

It suggests Boris Johnson's plan to lift all restrictions on July 19 may be at odds with the views of some of his scientific advisers, although Downing Street insists most of the PM's advisers back his approach. Sage said there were 'many advantages' to keeping infections down even with low hospitalisation and death rates.

It said: 'It makes it easier to prevent a return to rapid growth in the epidemic which could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed.

'Lower infection rates will also reduce impact of post-Covid syndromes and allow more NHS capacity to be used for routine care. There is significant risk in allowing prevalence to rise, even if hospitalisations and deaths are kept low by vaccination.

'If it were necessary to reduce prevalence to low levels again (eg.

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