Chief medic's insightful prediction of when UK lockdown may ease

9 April 2020, 19:37 | Updated: 9 April 2020, 19:40

By Fiona Jones

This is the illuminating moment a chief medic predicted how far along the UK is in the coronavirus journey and when the lockdown may ease.

The UK are at the plateau of the infection so "most of the infections are now done and it will go down in the next week or two," Dr Karol Sikora said.

While the infection rate may go down, there will be a delay before a "surge of NHS activity" which will be next week or the week after "so we've got to hang in there until that passes," he said.

Once that has passed the UK can look at easing the lockdown over a month, he suggested, such as opening small businesses, salons and garden centres, while keeping the vulnerable protected.

"We can't do that and we can't give a date to that until we know what's happened to the trends and the curves. The earliest I can see that we'll do anything is 27th April or even 1st or 9th May," Dr Sikora estimated

Dr Sikora explained that the date depends on how prevalent the virus is already.

Deserted Trafalgar Square, London, during lockdown
Deserted Trafalgar Square, London, during lockdown. Picture: PA

"There's some hopeful signs: in the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama Harbour, 3500 people roughly, 700 tested positive for the virus. Only half of them had any symptoms at all.

"So it may well be out in the population quite a lot of us...might have been infected without knowing much [or] had minimal symptoms.

"That's the problem, we don't know what percentage have been infected and if we knew that...we'd been in a much better position to advise."

We can use data from countries who plan to ease lockdowns imminently before making a decision ourselves, Dr Sikora said, citing Austria who are even allowing younger children to go back to school soon.

He said the antibody test, which measures our response to the virus, peaks at about five to six weeks after the infection.

"There's a lot of people out there who are very strongly positive for the antibody and they can actually relax...and we can pick those people up.

"We'll get there it's just a matter of when...but we can't this weekend and we can't probably for the next two weeks."