WAITING too long to lift lockdown could prove deadlier with a double wave of Covid and flu, a Sage advisor warned.
Experts have predicted another wave is inevitable, regardless of when we fully open up or how many people are double jabbed by that point.
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Finding the best moment to fully lift is the key challenge for the Government and their advisors.
Even holding on to a form of lockdown until every adult has been fully dosed with two vaccines could be problematic, Professor Graham Medley agreed.
He told a briefing this morning delaying the lockdown lift until the winter was a "concern" – due to the wave of infections that would follow, combined with a flu outbreak.
The expert warned the influenza epidemic will come, as "contact rates will not be as low" and "because of the fact we didn't have one last winter it will be a bit larger".
It comes as:
- 'Freedom day' is delayed – as scientists warn of hundreds of deaths a day if we don't hold back
- Lockdown will be reviewed again on June 28 – and he may relax rules on July 5
- The wedding guest limit will be lifted from June 21 as the venue can decide safe numbers, but the dance ban and face masks will stay
- The full list of businesses not reopening this month
- Everything you can and can't do from June 21
- The PM vowed not to delay July 19 even longer and is confident we will unlock fully in 4 weeks
- The Rule of Six will stay in place and outdoor gatherings will be capped at 30
Last month Public Health England's Dr Susan Hopkins told the BBC: "I think we have to prepare for a hard winter, not only with coronavirus, but we've had a year of almost no respiratory viruses of any other type. And that means, potentially the population immunity to that is less.
"So we could see surges in flu. We could see surges in other respiratory viruses and other respiratory pathogens."
Following this, although experts believe delaying the lift for four weeks is sensible, waiting too long could be a potential issue too.
If the lockdown lift was delayed until nearer the end of the summer, schools would then be going back and seasonal conditions for infections to better spread would be in play – meaning unvaccinated youngsters would be caught by the rise in Covid cases and transmitting the virus within classrooms.
A panel of scientists behind SPI-M-O, which models scenarios for the Government, all agreed a wave after fully unlocking would come.
It will be smaller due to the delay, but still possibly of "high magnitude".
Speaking today they said halting June 21's "Freedom Day" was the right call, with the extra four weeks buying precious time for vaccinations and to keep hospital admissions low.
Boris Johnson confirmed last night he hopes July 19 will be the date which all restrictions are lifted, after the slight hiccup thanks to the spreading Delta variant.
The University of Warwick modelling, presented by Professor Matt Keeling, found the month's respite would reduce total hospital admissions by 20-25 per cent.
But they warned deaths and infections will increase whenever we dispense with masks and social distancing at Step 4 in the roadmap.
Vaccinations, while hugely effective, don't protect everyone and some people will still get seriously unwell or die from Covid – despite the numbers being far lower than had the rollout not been so successful.
Prof Medley explained: "Essentially the vaccine reduces my risk of death hugely and I have had two doses now so my personal risk has gone down but as in most epidemiology its the individual risk times the number of people who take it.
"And there are a large number of people, tens of millions, who are in my position or worse.
"If we all take that risk at the same time then the number of deaths will be much bigger. We will take it in the next few weeks then the number of deaths can be very high.
"The vaccines are working extremely well – if we didn't have the vaccines we would be up to many hundreds of deaths a day at the moment.
"It's really just a question of the fact that the risk is small but the number of people taking it is really very large. the fact that we are having a wave of infections so there will be a lot more mixing so a lot more people will be exposed to the virus in the coming weeks."
The PM said a four week delay until July 19 should buy time for the vaccine rollout to catch up – but could not rule out a longer delay for Freedom Day.
He attempted to sugarcoat the blow by lifting restrictions on wedding sizes and swelling the Wembley crowd to 45,000 for the Euros.
The decision was made after Sage papers, from the LSHTM, warned the UK could suffer 50,000 deaths in a horror summer Covid wave.
The PM was told 2,500 people may be hospitalised every day if unlocking continued as planned.
But critics slammed border dithering for allowing the mutant strain to take hold so quickly while others accused him of "panicking".
Last night the jabs rollout was sped up to fight the bug, with 23 year olds invited to book today.
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