Boris Johnson suggests ‘route’ out of lockdown
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Several lockdowns have been introduced in England over the last 12 months in response to rising coronavirus cases. Many are wondering when restrictions may finally come to an end and a semblance of normality can return. But based on the latest figures, Covid cases, hospital admissions and deaths are still too high for the lockdown to be lifted. Express.co.uk spoke to a medical expert about when the third England-wide lockdown could be lifted in the future.
When will this lockdown end?
One expert told Express.co.uk Covid cases will need to be significantly lower before lockdown measures are lifted.
Professor Martin Michaelis, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Kent, told Express.co.uk: “I think we have a unique chance to reduce COVID-19 spread to very low levels, something below 10 cases per million residents per day, ideally around one case per million per day.
“As we can see from countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan, COVID-19 spread can be controlled locally by isolating infected individuals and their contacts when case numbers are that low.
“To achieve this, all people with any infectious disease symptoms, not just the three official ones, would need to be tested.
“This would need to be complemented by large-scale random testing of asymptomatic individuals.
“Although this requires some effort, it is the only strategy that is certain to give us sustainably back our freedoms.
“In such a scenario, we would probably need a form of lockdown until after Easter and then a slow, cautious, stepwise re-opening.
“An additional advantage of this strategy is that it prevents the formation of novel, dangerous variants.
“Since new variants are the consequence of random errors when the virus replicates, we dramatically reduce the chance of novel variants forming when we reduce virus transmission and replication.”
Professor Michaelis added there may be a “bumpier road ahead” if lockdown is lifted while Covid cases are still too high.
Professor Michaelis said: “Higher levels of COVID-19 spread are associated with more disease and death.
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“Moreover, virus spread cannot be effectively controlled if it passes a certain level.
“Therefore, an earlier removal of measures may work out in the end, if we are lucky, but it will be associated with a higher risk that severe, general restrictions need to be re-introduced.
“A higher level of COVID-19 spread provides the virus with more opportunities to form escape variants that are not covered by pre-existing immunity due to vaccination or previous infections and, hence, undo our previous efforts.
“Scientifically, the best strategy is to only remove restrictions when the infection numbers are very low.
“Other strategies are always associated with an enhanced risk that the pandemic spirals out of control again.”
Will there be a fourth lockdown in England?
Covid cases have significantly dropped since the start of the third lockdown in England.
On Tuesday, February 16, 10,625 Covid cases were confirmed in the UK and over the last seven days, new cases have dropped by 27.8 percent compared to the previous week.
Vaccine rollout is also well underway and people are optimistic vaccine rollout could help to control the spread of COVID-19.
While many are hopeful this lockdown could be England’s last, the Government has not ruled out further lockdowns if they are deemed necessary.
Boris Johnson said this week: “I’m increasingly optimistic about the sheer extent of the possibilities that are opening up with vaccinations. I’ll be setting out as much of a timetable as we can give on the 22nd.
“And I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to go ahead and open things up.
“But to say I can give an absolute cast-iron guarantee that we won’t face further difficulties and have to think harder and deeper about some problems, no, at this stage I can’t.
“But I don’t want people to think I’m not optimistic. I think there’s been a big change and the big change is that science is now unquestioningly in the ascendancy over the disease.”
Mr Johnson has said he wants this lockdown “to be the last”.
He added: “And we want progress to be cautious but also irreversible.”
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