The UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is not “done” and the country is in a “vulnerable position” as it prepares to fully reopen on June 21, an immunisation expert has said.
K scientists are split on whether the British government should press ahead with the final stages of easing social restrictions later this month.
Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said there are still many people who are vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 as he warned “the idea that somehow the job is done is wrong”.
Experts are divided over whether the final stage of easing social restrictions should press ahead on June 21 amid a surge in cases of the new variant first identified in India.
Downing Street has indicated that Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees nothing in the data to suggest the plan to end all legal lockdown restrictions on June 21 will need to be delayed.
Asked about Mr Johnson’s plans amid warnings over the spread of the so-called Indian variant, a No 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister has said on a number of occasions that we haven’t seen anything in the data but we will continue to look at the data, we will continue to look at the latest scientific evidence as we move… towards June 21.”
Prof Finn, of the University of Bristol, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s vulnerability across the country. The idea that somehow the job is done is wrong.
“We’ve still got a lot of people out there who’ve neither had this virus … nor yet been immunised, and that’s why we’re in a vulnerable position right now.”
He told LBC that pressing ahead with the easing of restrictions on June 21 “may be a bad decision”.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said a delay of a few weeks could have a significant impact on Britain’s battle against the pandemic.
He recommended it should be made clear to the public that it would be a temporary measure based on the surge in cases of the new variant.
“Even a month delay could have a big impact on the eventual outcome of this,” Prof Gupta told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
But Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, said it was important to press ahead with the June 21 easing from a societal point of view.
He told Times Radio: “I personally don’t see any case for delay … from a societal point of view, I think it’s really important that we go ahead on June 21.
“We’ve got to look at the collateral damage in terms of untreated cancers, untreated heart conditions, all of the other things that people suffer from.
“We’ve got to think about the impact of economic damage that would be caused by further periods of delay and uncertainty.”
The government’s former chief scientific adviser said ministers need more data before they can make a final decision.
“We need to substitute speculation for scientific data,” Professor Sir Mark Walport told BBC Breakfast. “The situation is very delicately balanced.”
Across the UK almost three-quarters of the adult population has had their first Covid jab, with almost half having had their second.
On Monday, 3,383 cases were confirmed in the UK.