Take PM's announcement on lockdown with pinch of salt, says SAGE expert

University of St. Andrews Professor Stephen Reicher and a member of the Sage Behavioral Research Subcommittee told BBC Breakfast the public should accept the Prime Minister’s announcement that social distancing could be eliminated with a pinch of salt in June.

He said, “I think we should take this with a pinch of salt. Remember, he said it in the middle of a campaign visit to the north of England and he clearly wants to share some good news … he immediately qualified it by saying it depended on the dates and the number of infections and the condition of things on June 21, almost two months away.

“If a week is a long time in politics, two months is an eternity in a pandemic. Remember, two months ago in India they said the pandemic was over, now they have 400,000 cases a day.

“So things can change very quickly, but I think the big problem for us now is how do we reduce infections, so the data looks good, and we can relax things in two months, and the really important problem is this : If we take this as a signal that if we relax and if we mingle now that it is all over, the paradox is that we increase the infections and make it less likely that we can relax on June 21st. “

He said, “If we believe that there is no risk at all if we start mixing without restriction, we will get into real trouble.”

“And as the World Health Organization has been very clear, complacency is one of the greatest things. I think we need to be optimistic but also vigilant.”

Professor Reicher said that in the future, people will have to be careful, but not in a way that restricts daily life.

“Even after the restrictions are lifted, it makes sense to take sensible and careful precautionary measures. not in a way that restricts our daily lives, not in a way that prevents us from seeing people or hugging people, but just realizing that by and large we are safer outside, not sitting too close to people , the windows are open, ”he told BBC Breakfast.

“So we have to be sensible, we have to be careful, and that way I think we’re much more likely to get to a place where our lives are much more normal, much more bearable, where we can meet our loved ones and hug, but hug not just anyone. “

When asked about the use of face masks in the future, Prof. Reicher said: “I think I don’t want any prescriptions – the whole point is that we move away from prescriptions in the future, but calculate the risk… So, if you, for example If you can open a window on a bus, make sure the windows can be opened so that you are safer.

“If you can, easily separate yourself. If you can’t do any of these things, wearing a face mask isn’t a bad idea.

“So it’s not a compulsion, as I say, it’s about understanding the risks, calculating risks, and making sensible decisions, and the government should help us identify those threats, but also help us create environments that are safer … “

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