Scientists back Boris Johnson's decision to scrap lockdown changes from tomorrow

·News Reporter
Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, when he announced England's easing of COVID-19 restrictions would be postponed. (PA Images)
Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, when he announced England's easing of COVID-19 restrictions would be postponed. (PA Images)

Boris Johnson’s decision to postpone England’s coronavirus reopening has been backed by experts.

The prime minister said on Friday that plans to bring back indoor performances, weddings of parties up to 30, and pilots of outdoor sports events with spectators, would be pushed back to 15 August instead of Saturday.

Bowling alleys, casinos and ice rinks were also due to reopen.

Johnson said an uptick in coronavirus infections in England – which has led to restrictions being imposed on house visitors in parts of northern England – means the reopening will be delayed.

Professor Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said: “Given concerns about rising cases in parts of the country and exactly what is responsible for this increase it is prudent to put on hold any new relaxations of COVID-19 control measures.

“We need to know more about what restrictions are most effective and those which will have essentially no impact on control.  The less change done at a time the easier this is to assess.”

Read more: Boris Johnson says coronavirus is probably spreading for the first time since May

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said: “The intervention to keep certain lockdown restrictions that were due to be eased should be seen as an alternative to going back to a full nationwide lockdown like we saw in March.

“We are seeing case numbers rising in specific locations, and unless there is strong adherence to the new guidance, we are likely to see more towns, cities and regions seeing similar lockdowns and ultimately something nationwide.

“All of this is ahead of an expected rise in infections as the weather cools in September and October, so only a concerted effort will see the UK succeed in controlling this pandemic.”

Johnson also expanded the places where masks need to be worn.

From 8 August, they will become mandatory in museums, cinemas and places of worship in England.

Professor Dame Til Wykes, vice dean psychology and systems sciences at King’s College London, said: “Clearly we need some clarity, so a postponement will allow us time to understand the rules and get used to wearing mask, so this lull is very welcome.

“Allowing the loosening off lockdown to be led by the data will reinforce trust in the science and in the government.

“We need to be ready for a potential second wave and that means having test and trace up and running and access to timely tests.  When we have that, the government may then have gained further public trust in loosening their guidance.”

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