A senior paramedic has warned against loosening lockdown measures in England too soon as intensive care units were still “full of rafters”.
Anthony Gordon, professor of intensive care medicine at Imperial College London, said hospitals are “still in the midst of coronavirus infections” and the public will have to wait longer for “relief”.
The Prime Minister also said Friday it was “early” to consider releasing restrictions as Conservative MPs called for schools in England to return before the March 8 target date and for all action to cease by May, when all over 50 year olds and those who are clinically at risk are expected to have been vaccinated.
The pace of vaccine adoption, with nearly 11 million people having given their first dose, has raised hopes that restrictions could be lifted. Some experts predict that people will be able to see friends and family as soon as March comes, and newspapers report that stores could open in April, followed by pubs in May.
Prof. Gordon said on BBC Radio 4, “I think we all hope that all of this, the lockdowns etc will eventually help, but right now we’re still in the middle of it a little longer.
“I can see that we are still very busy. We have expanded into these intensive care units and they are still completely open and full of patients.”
When the prime minister was due to present his timetable for society’s reopening in England later this month, the Sun reported ministers were preparing to allow pubs to serve take-away pints in April before fully reopening in May .
Meanwhile, the Telegraph said the prospect of dry pubs was being discussed as an option to allow bars to open their doors in April, but government sources turned down the idea, asking what the “point” of a pub without alcohol was.
Emma McClarkin, executive director of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Opening pubs without selling alcohol does not mean” reopening “pubs at all.”
As a sign that the current restrictions are working, the number of reproductions, or R-value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK fell to 0.7-1, from 0.7 to 1.1 last week, according to the latest government figures.
It has been suggested that with case numbers falling, the easing could pave the way for the resumption of outdoor teams and individual sports, as well as outdoor gatherings within weeks of schools returning in March.
The call to open the classrooms after half-time comes when the decentralized administrations in Wales and Scotland announced that some primary school year groups will be returning by February 22nd.
The Times reported that Downing Street’s non-essential stores were being selected to reopen in April, with the prospect that fans would be in the stadiums in time for the European Championship in June.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the nation needs a “Plan B” to further combat the threat of new variants if the vaccination program is to continue to be successful and society is to return to normal.
The chair of the health committee pointed out that Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said there are 4,000 different mutations around the world and that one of them may well be immune to the vaccines.
Mr Hunt told BBC Breakfast: “We need a Plan B that will ensure that after all this work with this brilliant vaccination program, which is by far the most successful in all of Europe, Europe will not be undermined because we suddenly find we are one exposed to a new mutation that is immune to all of these vaccines. “
Clive Dix, chairman of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, suggested that scientists are ahead of the game in this regard, working to “guess” future mutations in order to develop new potential vaccines.
Admitting that there is a “possibility” of a variant that defies the vaccine, he said today, “Take this data (genome sequencing) and let scientists take very seriously what comes up – where the mutations happen, what they do could do with the protein – we can guess some mutations that haven’t even occurred and make this one.
“And that’s part of the collaboration – we’re going to create libraries of future vaccines, just small enough, then, if that happens, we do a quick clinical study to see if it works and then start manufacturing. “
As of Friday, another 1,014 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and there were another 19,114 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.