Public urged to be cautious over lockdown rules
The public has been warned not to go beyond official guidance as lockdown restrictions ease further.
One expert is claiming the UK could face a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
Small groups of people will be able to meet within the rules for the first time from Monday in England, and more than two million clinically extremely vulnerable people who have been shielding since March will finally be allowed to spend time with other people outdoors.
But the new freedoms, which will come into effect officially after a hot weekend which has enticed people to beaches and beauty spots, must be treated with caution, England’s deputy chief medical officer has insisted.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the Government and public had a “dual responsibility” to prevent a second wave of the virus, describing now as a “very dangerous moment”.
Addressing the public’s responsibility in stark terms while he took part in the daily Downing Street briefing, he said: “Don’t tear the pants out of it, and don’t go further than the guidance actually says.”
And writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said ministers had to take “many other factors into consideration” in making decisions, and that Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advice was “independent of politics”.
Minutes from 34 Sage meetings were published this week, with Sir Patrick writing: “Clearly it is right that ministers see the advice first and that they have a chance to consider it as part of their overall decision making, but I believe it is also right that the evidence base should become open for others to see too, so they can provide challenge and form new and important observations.”
His comments followed earlier concern from Government advisers about easing lockdown too soon.
Four members of Sage have spoke out to warn that ministers are taking risks.
And on Saturday evening Professor Anthony Costello, a former World Health Organisation (WHO) director, sent a scathing tweet predicting a possible resurgence of the virus.
He said: “We have 8000 cases daily, a private testing system set up without connection to primary care, call-centre tracing that appears a fiasco, and no digital app. After 4 months. Unless the population has hidden (T cell?) immunity, we’re heading for resurgence.”
Prof Van-Tam said scientists will be watching “very closely” how things go over the next few weeks.
From Monday in England, friends and family can meet in parks and gardens in socially distanced groups of six.
For those who have been shielding, a slight reprieve will come in the form of being able to go outside with members of their household from Monday, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.
Those in this category who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.
The easing of restrictions for those shielding follows criticism that this group had been left feeling “forgotten”.
But Phil Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, said people would want to hear the scientific evidence behind the decision, which he described as having “come out of the blue”.
“People who are extremely vulnerable will rightly want to hear a lot more about the scientific evidence showing this will be safe for them,” he said.
Published: by Radio NewsHub