Dr Hilary: UK could become 'breeding ground' for new variant
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And another has suggested the changes will simply stoke divisions in society, claiming individuals and employers had been left to make crucial public health decisions. Independent Sage discussed the proposed changes, confirmed by Mr Johnson earlier this week, during their Friday briefing yesterday against a backdrop of mounting concerns over the so-called Beta variant, which may be capable of evading the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine.
I feel p****d off, sad and angry
Professor Christina Pagel
Professor Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London (UCL), said: “I feel p****d off, sad and angry.
“We are having the wrong conversation. Opening up on Monday is madness. We should not be doing it.
“We should be talking about how do we get cases down now.”
She warned: “A report commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance says that at peak, we’ll be getting 20,000 to 30,000 cases of new long Covid happening every single day.
“What are we doing to our young people, our children, our vulnerable? It’s just wrong.”
Dr Kit Yates, a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath, added: “The idea of allowing the illness to spread throughout the population, to infect lots of young people who have not been given the best protection after young people have sacrificed so much for the older generation, is wrong and we are letting them down.
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“The conversation should not be about is it right to go ahead, it’s how do we bring cases down?
“How do we stop this turning into a long-term health disaster?”
Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he likewise felt “anger and bewilderment”.
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He added: “The one thing is the people are ahead of the politicians. I think people are going to behave sensibly.
“But here we have a Government that was talking about data not dates – they have thrown that out of the window.
“They have talked about following the science and has thrown that out of the window.”
Prof McKee said: “This is actually really bad for democracy, for public health, for governance and everything else when you have a Government that is issuing such confusing messages and undermining itself in a lot of ways.”
Dr Zubaida Haque, the former Interim Director at The Runnymede Trust, said: “I am really worried that because the Government has created the situation where we have a raging third wave and yet they have shifted responsibility to individuals and to employers.
“There is going to be enormous tension and divisions in society as people are left to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s safe, what’s not safe.”
The prevalence of the Beta variant has prompted the Government to announce that holidaymakers returning to England from France must continue to quarantine for 10 days – even if they are double jabbed – when restrictions on other amber list countries are eased.
Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Beta variant has remained a threat throughout. It is probably less infectious than the Delta variant that is spreading here in the UK at the moment.
“Where it has an advantage is that it is able to escape the immune response to a better extent.”
He added: “As the population here becomes more and more immune, the conditions are right then for the Beta variant to get an advantage, so I can understand the concern.
“Of the variants that are out there and are known about, that one has always been a threat to us.
“There is some good evidence from South Africa that it can evade the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine more efficiently.”
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