The next fourteen days will be “absolutely crucial” in deciding whether the coronavirus blocking in England ends as planned on December 2, a top scientist claims.
Professor Susan Michie, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage), stressed that current rules must be obeyed if the country is to be “in a position” to spend the festive period with loved ones.
She also claimed a possible Covid-19 vaccine will “make no difference” to the current wave.
It comes after documents released by Sage warned that a return to the tiered coronavirus restriction system will cause infections again.
When asked what should replace the current restrictions, Prof Michie told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “It is too early to know. I think the next two weeks will be absolutely crucial.
“It will be two very challenging weeks, partly because of the weather, partly because, I think, the promise of a vaccine may make people complacent.
But it’s very unlikely that the vaccine will arrive by the end of the year or early next year and that won’t make any difference to the current second wave.
“So I think in the next two weeks everyone really has to make their decision.”
Prof Michie, a behavioral scientist at University College London, advised the public to “resist any urge to break the rules” about social distancing.
She added, “Because that maximizes the chances of us being in a position two weeks from now, on December 2, where we don’t really need to continue the lockdown.
“And even better, what everyone wants is to be in a position where they can spend the Christmas and winter holidays with loved ones.”
Newly released documents, drawn up the day before the second national lockdown was imposed, show that a subgroup of Sage expressed concerns about returning to the level system.
Models showed that if the lockdown is “properly adhered to”, the reproduction rate is likely to drop to less than 1, with hospitalizations and deaths expected to decline until at least the second week of December.
But the document, dated Nov. 4, added, “If England returns to the same application of the tiering system that was in effect before Nov. 5, shipping will return to the same rate of increase as today.”
Other documents from late October state that any hope of families gathering for Christmas will also depend on the R-value remaining below 1 “for some time”.
On Friday, Sage said the R rate for the UK has fallen to 1-1.2, which experts believe is already below 1 in some places.