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Fourth lockdown ‘unlikely’ but restrictions could return if variants resist vaccine

Another crippling lockdown is ‘unlikely’ but restrictions could return if new Covid variants prove resistant to vaccines, a leading scientist has said.

The expert whose modelling led to the first nationwide lockdown last year, Professor Neil Ferguson, was reported to have said the UK is ‘on a steady course’ out of the pandemic.

He went on to warn there could be a ‘roll back’ of some of the newly re-introduced freedoms.

He said this would be because of new variants that could prove resistant to vaccines.

Prof Ferguson, who sits on the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said data on falling Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths was encouraging.

Neil Ferguson
Neil Ferguson said recent data was ‘encouraging’

He told BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym that while another lockdown “can’t be completely ruled out”, he has become increasingly “optimistic” over recent months.

He said: “In the worst case scenario, if we have a new variant pop up which does manage to evade the vaccines, say late summer early autumn, there may be a need to roll back on some of these measures at least temporarily until we can boost people’s immunity.

“Do I think it’s likely to happen? No, I don’t. I think we are much more likely to be on a steady course now out of this pandemic, at least in this country.”

He said variants would need to be monitored “carefully”, but the UK has gone from a “terrible situation” earlier in the year to a “remarkably good situation now”.

People hugging
The nation is preparing to roll back on some restrictions in a few weeks

Life would “feel a lot more normal” by early summer, he added, saying: “We will have many fewer restrictions. Whether we have none at all it’s too early to say.”

The mass vaccination programme is continuing apace and so far across the UK there has been nearly 35 million first does of the Covid jab and more than 15 million second doses.

Latest data for infection rates showed that 1,946 people tested positive for the disease on Tuesday, while four people died.

The rate per 100,000 people stands at 22.6.

It comes weeks before the country is set to enter the next step of the roadmap out of lockdown on May 17, that will see major changes including indoor visits once again being allowed.



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