NERVTAG Chair: Lockdown measures may last until summer due to new variants

23 January 2021, 11:45

By Seán Hickey

Increased transmissibility among new Covid-19 variants makes the lifting of lockdown by Spring less likely, this infectious diseases expert warned.

Matt Frei wondered if NERVTAG chair Professor Peter Horby can "see us emerging into the daylight or some normality by Spring" as has been assured by the Chief Medical Officer.

"With the new variants emerging that makes me less optimistic that that's the case," said the Oxford Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"I think it will be longer than any of us want."

Professor Horby warned that the new variants coming from Brazil and South Africa are a cause for concern and "it will be many more months unfortunately before we see the end of it," because of this.

"The new variant with increased transmissibility has meant we've had to put in place stronger restrictions than anyone wanted perhaps for longer than anyone wanted."

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On travel bans, Matt asked the NERVTAG chair of he thought the Government's restrictions were sufficient "compared to those for instance in Australia or New Zealand" to prevent the spread of the new variants in the UK.

Professor Horby argued that the decision is difficult, noting that it is a "balance between the likely benefits and the consequences."

"If you stopped travel absolutely then of course you'd stop the risk of new viruses coming in," he said.

"Measures at the border will help slow the spread but it's very difficult to completely stop the spread of these new variants."

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