New Covid wave could kill tens of thousands by late summer if lockdown lifted too early, top expert warns

A NEW wave of coronavirus could kill tens of thousands of Brits by late summer if lockdown restrictions are lifted too early, an expert has warned.

The UK is currently living through a third national lockdown and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to reveal his roadmap out of restrictions on February 22.

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But Imperial College London expert Professor Azra Ghani, has revealed that there could be a significant amount of deaths by the summer if restrictions are eased again in July.

Last summer the rule of six was in place and restrictions eased up, allowing people to socialise, travel and enjoy hospitality.

So far across the UK over 15 million people have had a first dose of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab or the Pfizer/BioNTech offering, with over half a million having had their second.

Data has shown that the vaccines are already reducing death rates and transmission, but Prof Ghani said restrictions needed to be in place until more Brits are vaccinated in September.

Speaking to ITV News, she said the best way out of the pandemic would be “to be cautious” and to “open up slowly”.

Prof Ghani said: “In the long term this will be the better way out of the pandemic.

“The problem is that it is highly transmissible, we now have these new variants in place that we know are even more transmissible than previously, and not everybody will be vaccinated for various reasons.

“That can lead to subsequent epidemics if we just relaxed everything straight away.”

Yesterday it was revealed that cases of the virus had dropped in 93 per cent of local authorities in England.

There has also been a drop in hospitalisations and deaths.

Last month there were around 37,000 people in hospital with Covid in the UK with 4,032 on ventilators.

Data from the government's coronavirus dashboard shows that this has dropped off significantly.

At present there are 23,341 patients in hospital with Covid-19 and 2,943 requiring support from a ventilator.

Yesterday Britain recorded 9,765 Covid deaths – the smallest daily rise since October.

Prof Ghani added that if things continued on the same trajectory then we could see a “rapid decline in deaths”.

Her predictions are from models based on the Covidsim study.

The model can be used to look at predictions internationally based on factors such as the vaccine rollout, the number of critical care beds available and the number of general beds available.

Prof Ghani’s comments come after Mr Johnson last night addressed the nation at a press conference at Downing Street.



He said that the public needed to be “optimistic but patient” when it comes to lifting lockdown restrictions.

But government officials are reportedly looking to scrap the slogan: ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’ as the country takes its first steps out of lockdown.

As part of the Prime Minister’s highly anticipated ‘roadmap’ it is understood people will instead be encouraged to take part in more small outdoor gatherings – and even sports – from as soon as March 8.

Potentially before the end of March, outdoor leisure activities including golf and tennis will also be permitted.

Officials reportedly believe that – as well as transmission risks being low as the sports are played outside – the public may be encouraged to get fit.

In addition, students are set to return to classrooms on March 8, on what is tipped to be the first step toward the eventual easing.

Mr Johnson on Monday said he hoped the current coronavirus lockdown will be the last thanks to the "unprecedented" vaccine rollout.

During the conference last night Mr Johnson highlighted that there will be a route back to normality.

He added: “Because we want this lockdown to be the last. And we want progress to be cautious but also irreversible.”

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