Even as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce the scrapping of all Covid restrictions on Monday in Parliament, scientists have urged caution.
According to Johnson, lifting curbs is part of his “living with Covid” strategy that will return people’s freedom, the BBC reported.
Johnson said the end to restrictions would “mark a moment of pride as we begin to learn to live with Covid”.
The plan to move out of the pandemic would bring society “towards a return to normality” after “one of the most difficult periods in our country’s history”, he said.
Further, Johnson attributed the plan to the success of the Covid vaccination programme, which according to him had put England in a “strong position to consider lifting the remaining legal restrictions”.
However, he has maintained that the pandemic is “not over” and the plan for living with Covid would take a “cautious approach” which would retain “some surveillance systems and plans for contingency measures which can be stood up if needed to respond to new variants”, the report said.
Just over 91 per cent of people in the UK aged 12 and over have had a first dose of a vaccine, 85 per cent a second jab, and 66 per cent a booster or a third dose, according to official data.
Earlier this week, the government also announced it would offer a low-dose Covid vaccine to children aged between five and 11 in England during April.
As part of he new strategy, Johnson said that Covid testing would take place at a “much lower level”.
Community PCR testing for people with symptoms is expected to stop under the new plan, but it is unclear whether the availability of free lateral flow tests will be reduced, the report said.
The plans would also see councils in England become responsible for managing Covid outbreaks using existing powers.
The country is also expected to slim down virus surveillance programme.
But some scientists, health experts and charities helping vulnerable people have also voiced concern at the plans to lift all restrictions.
David Spiegelhalter, professor of public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, said there was significant uncertainty about the impact of the plans, the Guardian reported.
“I can see the figures are looking encouraging, but the consequences are very difficult to predict. It may be fine, it may not be,” he was quoted as saying.
Scientists at the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have also raised alarm about the prospect of a new mutant strain emerging, Daily Mail reported.
They warned that any sudden change to the rules carries the potential to accelerate the pandemic and trigger a ‘rapid’ rise in cases.
In a paper discussed by SAGE, the scientists argued that it’s a “common misconception” that viruses evolve to become weaker.
It warned of a “realistic possibility” that a variant could spawn that is just as lethal as other coronaviruses known to strike humans, such as MERS, which has a 35 per cent case fatality rate, the report said.