'This is the year of living differently' WHO expert warns ahead of PM's announcement

23 June 2020, 07:55

Dr Harris said the UK had done well to manage its coronavirus outbreak
Dr Harris said the UK had done well to manage its coronavirus outbreak. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A World Health Organisation expert has warned the UK needs to be careful ahead of the Prime Minister's announcement on easing of social-distancing rules.

Boris Johnson is expected to address Parliament to announce a reduction in the two-metre coronavirus social-distancing rule on Tuesday.

The PM is set to publish the keenly-awaited review of the rules on Tuesday, amid widespread expectations it will be cut to one metre.

But a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert has warned the UK has to be careful if lockdown measures are eased.

Dr Margaret Harris told the BBC: "The lesson is for people to understand this is the year of living differently.

"Not, 'OK, it's over'. You haven't just been let out of school.

"You have done well. You have really brought down your numbers.

"The UK has brought a very difficult outbreak right down.

"Very good news in the last couple of days about the limitation in cases, and far, far fewer people dying.

"So, now is the moment to celebrate that by being super careful."

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Ahead of Tuesday's announcement to Parliament, Mr Johnson discussed the plan on Monday with the Covid-19 strategy committee including the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty.

Downing Street insisted ministers "will not hesitate" to reimpose controls if the spread of the virus picks up again.

A No 10 source said: "We are only able to move forward this week because the vast majority of people have taken steps to control the virus.

"But the more we open up, the more important it is that everyone follows the social-distancing guidelines.

"We will not hesitate to reverse these steps if it is necessary to stop the virus running out of control."

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was able to act because the numbers of new coronavirus cases, admissions to hospital, and deaths from the diseases were all continuing to fall.

He told the daily No 10 briefing on Monday that just one-in-1,700 people were now estimated to be infected with the virus, compared to one-in-400 a month ago.

"All these figures are coming down and pointing in the right direction. It shows that while there is still much to do, we are clearly making progress," he said.

However, Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said that even as the rules were eased people still needed to follow social distancing, including regular hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene.

"There is a critical point here that says just because life is feeling a bit more back to normal don't suddenly jump to where you were this time last year. We need to learn to go forward with restrictions in our lives," she said.