BRITS could be allowed to meet friends and loved ones indoors from May and lockdown measures may be eased every three weeks from March 8, a Government scientific adviser said today.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose warnings about the potential Covid death toll led to the first lockdown in March, says brighter days are coming as the UK’s daily infection and death toll continues to drop.
A top academic says he believes areas with the lowest infection rates could go into Tier 1-style restrictions in MayCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Under Tier 1 restrictions last year, pubs were open and different households could meet indoors if they followed the ‘rule of six’Credit: Alamy
The expert, who is nicknamed Professor Lockdown and is on the Government advisory body Nervtag, said areas with the lowest rates of Covid could go into Tier 1-style restrictions by May.
And at the very least, he thinks the whole of England could be under Tier 2-like restrictions.
Under the lowest tier rules last year, a maximum of six people could meet indoors and outdoors, while pubs were open without punters needing to buy meals and non-essential shops could keep doors open.
In Tier 2, household mixing indoors was banned, but groups of six could meet outside. Pubs and bars were ordered to close unless they could serve food.
It comes as:
In an interview on a Politico podcast, Prof Ferguson said: “By May time, it’s realistic to be in something akin to Tier 2.
“Maybe with areas of very low incidence by that time, we could move to Tier 1 type measures, completely relaxing and having something akin to where we were in August.”
However, he cautioned that the road out of tough measures will be a “bumpy” and slow one – and it could be next year before all restrictions are finally gone.
Up to 90 per cent of over 50s must be vaccinated before society can begin its long return to normality, he said.
And every adult must have had the jab for life to go on as it was before.
UK Covid deaths dropped by a quarter in a week as 678 more fatalities were yesterday recorded, while cases fell by 34 per cent
Prof Ferguson says the UK is doing better in its battle against the virus than he’d anticipated just weeks agoCredit: PA:Press Association
Meanwhile, the jabs roll-out is continuing apaceCredit: Reuters
“We’re in a better place than I might have anticipated a month ago,” he said.
“Lockdown has driven down cases quite fast – in a month’s time, we might have some bandwidth to reopen schools, or at least primary schools.”
He said restrictions could gradually be eased every three weeks after schools reopen on March 8 and that the Government unlocked Britain too quickly last year.
He said: “I’m much more comfortable with a strategy that implements one change, then watches what happens for 3 weeks, so we can see the effect of that change.
“Hopefully by May, we’ll be in a place much more like October, rather than having ever intensified social distancing.”
He said that data on the AstraZeneca vaccine’s effects on transmission was crucial to finding out whether people will be able to mix and relax social distancing.
The academic spoke after it was reported this morning that mask wearing and social distancing could be in place for many months to come.
Professor Ferguson still sits on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group despite quitting his position on SAGE after he was caught breaking lockdown to visit a lover.
Plans being considered by ministers to reduce the spread of Covid and plot a route out of lockdown include the assumption that people will wear face masks and stay at least a metre apart from each other until the autumn.
It means many will go without hugging grandparents until next year.
“The thinking is that social distancing will need to be in place for a long time to come,” a Whitehall source told The Times.
“It has repercussions for the scale of any reopening. Restaurants, pubs and offices will all need to be Covid-secure.”
Boris Johnson has hinted that England will unlock as one without the regional tiers system and said the virus was “behaving in a similar way” across the country.
He will set out his roadmap out of lockdown on February 22.
Prof Ferguson said it’s his “fervent hope” that “certainly by this time next year” the UK will be “basically back to normal”.
“Whether we maintain bits of them will partly be political decision that really depend on the situation in other areas of the world but there’s a lot of uncertainty around that,” he said.
It comes as the UK’s jabs roll-out continues apace. Some 13.5million Brits have now received at least one vaccination.
The Sun exclusively reported that the hated 10pm curfew won’t return when pubs finally do reopen in May – and boozers can hand out takeaway pints from April.
Meanwhile, a symptom-tracking app predicts that cases will tumble to a total of 85,000 symptomatic infections on the day schools are set to open again.
The ZOE Covid-19 Symptom Study said there will be 3,373 cases a day by March 8.
That’s the equivalent of 1 in 780 Britons suffering an infection with the virus.
The top epidemiologist behind the project said these levels would ‘allow’ children to return to school, and for people to start meeting friends and family again outdoors.
If the expert’s predictions are accurate, it means the UK could enjoy a summer with friends and family this yearCredit: PA:Press Association