Government scientist gives instant reaction to Boris Johnson's lockdown easing

10 May 2021, 18:15

By Fiona Jones

Dr Mike Tildesley, member of SAGE sub-group the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group, gives his instant reaction as Boris Johnson confirms further lockdown easing.

Boris Johnson has confirmed some lockdown restrictions will be lifted from 17 May, including the indoor reopening of pubs, resumption of international travel and return of hugging.

Read more: Lockdown: PM confirms Covid restrictions to be lifted on 17 May - all you need to know

Speaking during the Downing Street coronavirus press briefing, the prime minister detailed the measures which will be lifted in Step Three of the government's roadmap out of lockdown.

His announcement came as the latest data revealed that infection rates are at their lowest level since September and deaths and hospitalisations are at their lowest level since last July.

Dr Mike told LBC's Tom Swarbrick, "It is very much a balance of risks. [With] any type of reopening, the risk is going to increase a little bit. But we are at a phase now where cases have been pretty low for a long time, we're reporting deaths that are on a par with August last year when we were at the lowest levels.

"So I think it's the right time to move to this phase of the roadmap."

He caveated that this next phase needs to be monitored and several weeks after 17 May, scientists can see what impact this relaxation has had.

"My hope is we're on track, and if we do well with this opening hopefully we are on track for June 21 relaxation, so I'm cautiously optimistic at the moment," Dr Mike said.

Tom asked: "What's a cautious hug?"

Dr Mike said, "The way I interpret this is, we have to think about peoples' mental health and wellbeing...I'm not going to stop my children hugging their grandparents when it's legal, but I'm probably not going to go to the pub and go round hugging everyone.

"We need to remember there are some restrictions in place, we've got to not go mad."

Dr Mike Tildesley predicted that post-21 June, when all Covid restrictions will end, people will be "more cautious" and self-regulate their proximity to others.

"I think we should strive to get back to normality...but as I said, there's a big uncertainty," he said, "the variants of concern are a worry - my only hope is we can keep those out as long as possible so we can get back to normality and bide our time until we have booster vaccinations available to combat those."

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the easing of restrictions will continue to depend on four criteria: the successful vaccine rollout, decrease of hospitalisations and deaths, infection rates remaining low and new variants not overwhelming the country.

When questioned, he refused to confirm nor deny whether the lockdown in England will end earlier than or later than its 21 June date.