The chief medical officer for England has warned “a lot more people will die” if the government lifts lockdown restrictions too soon.
Chris Whitty told MPs on Tuesday (March 9) that despite the vaccine roll-out he expected a “significant” and “substantial” surge in Covid infections given there is “nothing to suggest the virus is going away any time soon”.
The modelling presented by the government’s most senior scientific advisors predicts another wave of the virus with even the most optimistic models forecasting at least another 30,000 deaths.
However, calls for the government to lift lockdown sooner will be escalating as the number of infections, daily deaths and hospitalisations continues to fall.
‘Lifting lockdown is on the minds of our constituents’, says Clark
Greg Clark, the influential chairman of the Commons science and technology committee today pressed Whitty as to why lockdown could not be eased more quickly, saying “it’s on the minds of our constituents whose jobs depend on this”.
Clark, a former business secretary asked England’s CMO: “If we got to the end of April and the levels of infection, admissions to hospital, pressure on hospitals, ability and knowledge of the vaccine and its efficaciousness against new variants…all of these things had gone very well, would we still need to wait until June 21 just because we had set a date rather than be guided by the data?”
Whitty said the gaps in the easing of restrictions laid out in Boris Johnson’s ‘toadmap’ presented last month are needed to gauge the impact of lifting the constraints to measure their impact on the virus.
“All the modelling suggests is that at some point we will get a surge in virus,” said Whitty, “We hope it doesn’t happen soon, it might for example happen later in the summer if we open up gradually or because of the seasonal effect it might happen over the next autumn and winter.”
‘To pretend there won’t be more deaths would be completely wrong’
The surge would “find the people who either have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked,” he added.
“Some of them will end up in hospital and sadly some of them will go on to die.”
The CMO told the committee’s MPs that he would “strongly advise against” shortening the five–week periods laid out in the prime minister’s roadmap, and stressed the importance of not giving “any impression that what we are expecting is this just goes away and there are no further deaths.”
Whitty added:“That is not realistic and I think to pretend that to the British public would be completely wrong.”
The five week periods between the dates laid out by Johnson are to provide Sage four weeks to measure the impact and then one week for businesses and organisations to adjust to any changes.
11-year-old dies in hospital with Covid
The UK’s death toll from Covid-19 rose by a further 231 people in the last 24 hours – a tragic number yet one that is significantly lower than one month ago.
Today’s number represents a 78% drop from February 9 when the death toll rose by 1,052.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed the UK’s total number of deaths (of people within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test) is now 124,797.
Earlier it was announced that 188 coronavirus hospital patients died in the UK , the youngest of whom was just 11 years old.