SAGE expert says he knows when we’ll emerge from Covid pandemic ‘nightmare’

One of the scientific advisers to the Government has admitted the UK will only start to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic by Easter.

Prof John Edmunds, an expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the ‘nightmare’ of the epidemic will take months to come out of, reports the Mirror.

He did back lockdown 2 in England but insisted restrictions would still be needed afterwards – and that it would be ‘really unwise’ to return to schemes like Eat Out to Help Out.

The SAGE expert also warned a return to the government’s tiered system was ‘not very sensible’ and cast doubt on the Tier 1 and 2 of restrictions.

Speaking at an Institute for Government event, Prof Edmunds said: “I think we will start to come out of this nightmare of this epidemic from, I would say, I’ve always felt it was around Easter, around a year in is when we will really start to come because we will be vaccinating, we will be able to control the epidemic better.

“After we release from lockdown we will still have to have restrictions in place to stop it coming back.

“The idea is to bring incidence down and hold it at that lower level, rather than the level it is now.

“So we are not going to just be returning to Eat Out to Help Out – or I really hope we don’t – come December, because that would be really unwise.

“We have to stay with some restrictions in place and keep the epidemic at a low level.”

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He took aim at Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s scheme for discounted dining in the summer, saying: “I can’t imagine any epidemiologists suggesting that that was a good idea”.

Prof Edmunds also cast doubt on the effectiveness of the tiers system, as he said Tier 3 measures had slowed the epidemic but the lower tiers were less useful.

“I think that the problem with the tier system is the other tiers don’t slow is that the other tiers don’t slow the epidemic very much,” he said.

“So places that are in the lower tiers inevitably end up in the higher tiers.

“So we can slow the epidemic at the higher level but that’s not a very good outcome because then everyone ends up with high incidence so it’s not a very sensible way of doing things.”

The Prime Minister has said he would like to return to a tiered system at the end of the national lockdown, which expired on December 2.

Meanwhile, Prof Edmunds offered a glimmer of hope on vaccines, which he said could be ready in the early part of next year.

But he said mass vaccination of the entire country as there would not be enough doses initially.

“It would be unwise to vaccinate the lowest risk groups immediately just because the benefit:risk ratio we are not sure of yet,” he said.

“I think we will see vaccines being introduced to the highest risk people first and I think that is a perfectly acceptable type of strategy.”

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