Former Chief Science Adviser: reopening pubs will "no question" cost lives

4 July 2020, 12:27

By Seán Hickey

A member of independent SAGE suggested that England should have stayed in lockdown for a few more weeks to be in a better position to ease lockdown.

As the UK eases lockdown by allowing pubs, restaurants and hairdressers to reopen, Matt Frei spoke to Professor Sir David King, former Chief Science Adviser to the government and a member of independent SAGE.

Shockingly, Professor Sir David King told Matt that "herd immunity may well still be the policy and they're just not telling us." Matt asked Sir David if the reopening of pubs will cost lives, to which he said there is "no question" that it will.

Matt asked Sir David "what should we be looking out for in terms of that trigger point we were warned of." The independent SAGE member noted that we must be quicker to quell outbreaks, arguing that "we should have picked up on Leicester three weeks ago."

"We are running a terrible risk and it's all down to a degree of impatience in my view.

"We should have stayed in lockdown for a few more weeks and we would have got ourselves in a much better position." Sir David told Matt that "this is a very risky situation" as England allows people to return to pubs.

Matt argued that if there is a small uptick in cases in the UK as a result of coronavirus, we are better equipped for the occasion now. Sir David argued that "we should never begin undoing a lockdown...without the ability to find every new case, isolate that person and isolate their contacts, that's the only way to get rid of the virus" although acknowledging that the NHS is now better equipped, albeit by prioritising Covid-19 over all other illness.

England reopened its pubs under strict social distancing guidelines
England reopened its pubs under strict social distancing guidelines. Picture: PA

Sir David insisted that "it's foolhardy to actually let anything go at this time," warning that the infectivity level in England is "still considerably higher than what the Prime Minister announced."

"My advice to anybody going into a pub is to be sure to be two metres apart" he said. The former CSA told Matt that if people don't abide by the strictest safety measures while inside pubs and restaurants "before long you're in a dangerous situation" and run the risk of contracting coronavirus.

Matt wondered if the science suggests "that the moment we're about to embark on could be as dangerous as the middle of March when infections were spreading rampantly."

Sir David warned that "it is possible that this could happen or it could be at a lower level because we haven't completely undone the lockdown."

The independent SAGE member urged the public to "wear a mask if you're in an enclosed space...in my view that should be imperative." He added that people should "stay two metres apart, but only go into pubs if you can stay outdoors."

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