People should meet up outdoors, maintain social distancing and ‘hug cautiously’ as more restrictions are lifted today, a top scientist has warned.
From Monday in England people can socialise indoors in homes, pubs and restaurants, and physical contact between households will once again be allowed.
But ahead of the relaxation of lockdown Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), urged caution.
He warned that the pandemic is at a “perilous moment” and said it will be “extremely important” to keep a close eye on the numbers over the next few weeks.
He said he will be staying outdoors as far as possible despite today’s relaxation of restrictions.
Sir Mark told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday vulnerable people who have not been vaccinated “really need to get vaccinated”, adding: “Because if you haven’t had a vaccine you really must have one actually. There’s no good reasons for not.
“So that’s the important thing. But then it is I think a question of people making judgments and you know my personal judgment is that I will do things outside as far as possible.”
Asked if he would avoid indoor pub tables, he said: “For the moment, yes.”
Sir Mark said if people are doing things inside they should make sure windows are open and the room properly ventilated.
He said he thinks complete normality “is going to take a bit of time to return, and people have got to be sensibly cautious”.
Asked what his advice would be to people on Monday, he said: “Well my advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
“As far as possible socialise outside, maintain social distancing, if you’re going to hug, hug cautiously.”
It comes amid concern over the Indian variant of Covid that has ravaged the country.
Professor John Edmunds said while the Indian variant is a “new threat” the UK is in a much better position compared to before Christmas when the Kent variant was detected.
Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he said: “I think we should be concerned but not panicking. We’re in a much, much better place now than we were when the Kent variant first hit us back in November, December.”
He added: “Now the hospitals are empty, thankfully, or virtually empty of Covid patients and two-thirds of the adult population have been vaccinated.”
Prof Edmunds said if things deteriorate quickly with the new variant, action will have to be taken.
“I think we have to monitor this very carefully, I don’t think we should rule anything out. So if things look like they’re getting worse rapidly then I do think that action needs to be taken.”
Elsewhere, Professor Adam Finn, from the University of Bristol and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), was asked if the JCVI would look again at the recommendation that people under 40 should be offered non-AstraZeneca jabs if it means that it could speed up the rollout.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Yes absolutely, that’s on the agenda, and if necessary that’s something that could be done.
“When we expressed a preference for non-AstraZeneca vaccines for this age group it was done in a very provisional way on the basis of everything going absolutely right.
“And if the evidence shows that the risk benefit balance for people in their 30s is to be offered that vaccine then absolutely that recommendation will be changed.
“At the moment we don’t think that’s necessary, but it could well become a recommendation in the future.”