Coronavirus: Life in UK will 'feel a lot more normal by the summer', says SAGE adviser Neil Ferguson

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Life in Britain will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’ because any third wave will be much smaller and unlikely to overwhelm the NHS, says SAGE adviser ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson

  • Professor Ferguson said vaccination should keep the country out of lockdown
  • They may even work well enough to squash the predicted autumn/winter wave 
  • He admitted ‘we do expect transmission’ but future outbreaks will be weaker 
  • UK announced only one more Covid death yesterday, the lowest since August

Life in Britain will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’ because the third wave of Covid will be much smaller than previous ones and unlikely to cripple the NHS, Professor Neil Ferguson says.

The SAGE adviser and Imperial College London epidemiologist said today that he expects the vaccine rollout to help keep the UK out of lockdown for good. 

And even in the autumn and winter, when experts fear the virus will make a comeback like flu, he said the jabs appear to work so well they will hold it at bay.

Professor Ferguson, known as ‘Professor Lockdown’ because his warnings of a huge death toll in the first wave led Boris Johnson to lock down the country, said the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around.

He admitted ‘we do expect transmission’ when society fully reopens in June but suggested vaccination should replace the need for lockdowns and the UK is ‘in a very good position’ to stick to plans for June 21.

Another member of SAGE, however, urged people not to get over-excited about Boris Johnson’s claim that social distancing could be totally scrapped in summer. 

Professor Stephen Reicher, a psychologist at St Andrews University, said ‘things can change very rapidly’ and that cases could spiral if people got complacent.

The next lockdown relaxation is due in less than two weeks’ time on Monday, May 17, when people will be allowed to meet in large groups outdoors, small groups indoors, and indoor entertainment and international travel are expected to reopen.

Only one UK death from coronavirus was announced yesterday – the lowest since August.

Professor Ferguson, known as 'Professor Lockdown' because his warnings of a huge death toll in the first wave led Boris Johnson to lock down the country, said the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around

Professor Ferguson, known as ‘Professor Lockdown’ because his warnings of a huge death toll in the first wave led Boris Johnson to lock down the country, said the ratio of cases to hospital admissions would be much lower next time around

‘The period we had concerns about – but they are diminishing – is really late summer, early autumn,’ Professor Ferguson said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘If we’re going to see another wave of transmission, that’s where it would take place. 

 ‘But the data on the vaccines is getting ever more encouraging, particularly when you get new data that was released just over a week ago which showed even if you do get infected [after having a vaccine] you are less infectious. 

‘So that’s pushed our estimates of the scale of any autumn wave down.’

He said there was still a risk that a vaccine-resistant variant could come along and dent plans to return to life as normal.

Dangerous variants are more likely to emerge when there is widespread transmission – as there still is in many parts of the world, particularly India – and it may also be more likely when people are immune because the virus must evolve to survive.

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