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Christmas cancelled? Expert warns numbers are not dropping fast enough

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Professor Hugh Pennington explained a vaccine for COVID-19 will not be ready by Christmas as it needs to pass various safety tests. He went on to predict that Britons should prepare to stay at home during the festive season as coronavirus is not yet under control. Speaking to talkRADIO, Professor Pennington said: “We’re not getting the cases numbers down as quickly as anybody would like.

“The lockdown will get the case numbers down but we’ll just have to wait and see, unfortunately.

“We’re in the hands of the virus and the vaccine isn’t going to be around before the end of the year.

“It may not be rolled out into well into next year because it still has to pass various safety tests.”

He added: “Christmas – be prepared to stay at home.

“I think it’s sound advice.

“Let’s hope we don’t have to but that’s my fear.

“The way the virus numbers go up and go down and go up again, we’re still not hammering the numbers enough to say it will be fine by mid-December.”

His comments come as Government scientists warned the reproduction rate of coronavirus must stay below one for “some time” to allow families to gather at Christmas.

Documents show the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), which reports to the Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies (Sage), believe infections will rise at the same rate as before if the three-tier system is brought back in on December 2.

The team warned that failing to stop the virus taking off again could have an impact on families getting together to celebrate Christmas.

It comes as Sage said on Friday the reproduction number for coronavirus, the R value, is dropping across the UK and is potentially below one in some areas.

In a document dated October 28, SPI-M set out modelling scenarios of what may happen in the future.

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It said: “None of these scenarios are palatable.

“Nevertheless, until such a time that more effective treatments are available or a significant proportion of the population have been immunised, no other scenarios are possible.”

In one scenario where prevalence is “low and controlled”, and where NHS Test and Trace “can play a big role in containing outbreaks”, there is scope for a loosening of social distancing rules over Christmas for a “limited time”, the experts said.

For this to happen, “rapid and decisive interventions” must push R well below one and “maintain that for some time”.

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