Jenny Harries leads scientists’ urgent plea over Freedom Day: ‘Dangerous and unethical’

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With most statutory controls due to end on Monday, top experts said the situation facing the NHS is serious with rapidly increasing numbers of hospital admissions. Other key figures claimed Monday’s “Freedom Day” unlocking was “a dangerous and unethical experiment.”

The latest UK Government figures showed there had been a further 51,870 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK as of 9am on Friday, the highest daily jump since January.

Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, urged Brits to “think through the implications” before attending social events as Ministers increase reliance on personal responsibility.

She also admitted it looked odd for a country with high infection rates to open completely.

Jeremy Hunt, Chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee warned the Government could be forced to reimpose lockdown restrictions if Covid cases continue rising into the autumn.

 

The South West Surrey MP added: “Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks.

“That means we are heading for 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than this time last year.

“I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level which was the previous daily record in January.

“If they are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.”

Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said new infections could reach 100,000 a day within weeks. 

He stressed that without the social-distancing measures which brought the first two waves of the pandemic under control the virus would continue to spread.

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme this morning: “I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and drawn out. 

“My hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn.”

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Government advisers in New Zealand, Israel and Italy argued in a letter to the Lancet journal the relaxation of restrictions policy would cause COVID-19 infections to spread uncontrollably through the UK.

They wrote: “We believe the Government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19.”

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, who advises the UK and Scottish governments, said there could be a “very large wave” of new infections.

He said England should have followed the example of Scotland and kept some control measures in place.

Jenny Harries discusses possible quarantine period extension

He told Times Radio this morning: “What I have been concerned about for many months is that if the unlocking really is a big release… then there’s potential for a very large wave indeed.

“This idea that it would be a final ‘freedom day’ was, I have to say, somewhat naive.

“The public health expectation was that we would need additional measures to keep the rate of increase of cases under control.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he wants the lifting of lockdown on so-called “freedom day” to be “irreversible”, but in recent days ministers have begun to sound more cautious.

While social-distancing rules in England will come to an end, Government guidelines advise face masks should still be worn in enclosed spaces such as in shops and on public transport, while pubs and bars should be table service only.

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