England easing COVID-19 lockdown too soon, scientific advisers warn

People walk near Tower Bridge in London

Starting from Monday, more than two people will be able to meet outside and schools in England will also reopen to some pupils, the BBC reported. The government said it had followed the data and evidence at all times.

On the same day, senior scientific and medical advisers warned England risks losing control of the coronavirus pandemic again and is at a "very risky moment" as it starts to ease out of the COVID-19 lockdown.

As people revelled in soaring temperatures by flocking to beaches and parks, several members of the government's own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Saturday told ministers they risked a second wave of infection. "One, I think the reproduction number is only just below one and so there's not a lot of room for manoeuvre and so small changes can put that reproduction number up above one".

"As we know, it's not yet fully operational so that is where the risk lies", he said.

A mobile tracing app is not yet ready. Three other members of SAGE and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, also expressed their concern.

Living with the infection rate at its current level, he said, would lead to many more cases and more deaths.

It says that while it may have made some mistakes it is grappling with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak and that it has prevented the health service from being overwhelmed.

Horby of the University of Oxford said there is still too much uncertainty about what would happen to the virus' reproduction rate (R0, "R-nought") if schools reopen and other activities resume.

He added that the track, trace and isolate system was not expected to be fully operational - with local teams working to stamp out clusters of cases - until the end of June.

Van-Tam said the more than 50 members of SAGE, which includes scientists, medics and academics, often held differing opinions but they all agreed that any easing must be painstakingly slow and extremely cautious.

There is a growing rift between the government and its top scientific advisors as the United Kingdom looks to ease certain lockdown restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

"My frustration has been recently at least that they're pretending that they're not making a decision, that in fact it's us who are making the decision, and that's not really the case", he said. "At the beginning Public Health England got off to a good start in terms of testing to try and make sure they caught people coming into the country with it [coronavirus]".



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