Bars and restaurants should remain closed until May because of covid scientists claim
Researchers modelling the pandemic said that even if 90 per cent of people are vaccinated against coronavirus, 10 per cent would still be at risk of serious infection.
The group of experts say restrictions should be lifted slowly as very little is currently known about the effect of the vaccines on transmission and if younger people catch the virus they could be at risk of long Covid.
They said releasing all measures at the end of April once all over-50s, those in high risk groups and frontline health and social workers are vaccinated, could still lead to a huge surge in cases.
Dr Marc Baguelin, from Imperial College London, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a sub-group of Sage, said the premature opening of the hospitality sector would lead to a “bump” in Covid-19 cases.
He said: “We looked at the partial reopening and the increase in the R number – it will generate an increase in the R number – the extent of which we don’t know really.
“Something of this scale, if it was to happen earlier than May, would generate a bump in transmission, which is already really bad.
“So you have a lot of pressure on hospitals, you will have another wave of some extent.
“At best you will keep on having very, very unsustainable level of pressure on the NHS.”
Instead, modelling indicates that a more gradual relaxation of controls is far less risky, and could provide an exit without overwhelming the health service.
Researchers say, that under the most optimistic assumptions about vaccine rollout, coverage and efficacy, it will be several months before the population immunity threshold is reached in the UK.
Professor Anthony Harnden deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that the lockdown should continue until the late spring.
He said: “We don’t know that vaccines prevent transmission and we will need a large sector of the population immunised before we interrupt transmission.
“Therefore it’s really important that we stay very cautious, that we maintain social distancing and keep some sort of lockdown in certainly until the late spring period.”