"Reopening life will be really dangerous going into winter," warns pandemic expert

9 July 2020, 20:26

By Fiona Jones

Infectious disease expert explains to Iain Dale why it is "really dangerous" relaxing lockdown ahead of the coming winter months.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that gyms and indoor pools are permitted to reopen from 25 July.

Additionally, Boris Johnson's target for all coronavirus test results to be returned within 24 hours by the end of June has been missed - just 1.8% of home tests met the goal in the most recent week.

UCL lead of the infectious diseases programme Oksana Pyzik says the cornerstone of fighting any pandemic is testing and will break the chain of infectious transmission.

"Given the timing that we are now over 12 million deaths worldwide, the worst is yet ahead, this is accelerating globally, and we are heading into the winter months while also reopening, resuming travel. Yet we don't have these fundamentals in place. This is going to be really dangerous for our vulnerable individuals," Ms Pyzik said.

She cited test and trace leader Baroness Harding's report that not only is the volume of tests an issue, but tracing is also an issue, and furthermore, when people are contacted and instructed to self-isolate, they are not responding well.

Ms Pyzik said that without all aspects of the system working, it "falls apart."

"Reopening life will be really dangerous going into winter," warns pandemic expert
"Reopening life will be really dangerous going into winter," warns pandemic expert. Picture: LBC/PA

However, she continued, Scotland is taking a different approach to England; while their testing rate is lower they have "really succeeded in communicating", social distancing and wearing face coverings, for example.

She said England should not bee too cavalier about letting the virus spread unchecked over rhe summer because not only will the winter months present more pressure on healthcare capacity as other viruses emerge, but scientists are learning more about the virus.

The long term complications in previously healthy people, including lung scarring and neurological damage, are "very worrying," Ms Pyzik said, citing a study that found 45% of those hospitalised with coronavirus needed ongoing medical care.

"It's more than just a respiratory disease, it's a multi-system disease."

Thousands of workers whose jobs put them at a greater risk of contracting coronavirus will be tested even if they have no symptoms, the government has announced.

Optimistically, Ms Pyzik said this was "excellent" news: "There's an increase proportion of asymptomatic transmission...people such as pharmacists and taxi drivers are frequently in contact with other people and if they do not have a test result to confirm that they are a carrier then of course their behaviour is going to be very different.

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