COVID outbreak in coming weeks ‘could delay plans to ease restrictions’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 21, 2021 to participate in the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQ ) in the House of Commons.  (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson had previously set May 17 and June 21 as the last two dates scheduled to exit the lockout. (Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP via Getty Images)

A member of the government’s top vaccine advisory board has warned that the easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England could be delayed if infections increase in the coming weeks.

Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), said any sense that the pandemic is over is “flawed.”

He warned that adjustments to the current roadmap dates could be made if there were “significant increases” in cases where the lockdown was relaxed.

The second stage, Monday last week, saw the reopening of pubs, shops and hairdressers.

Watch: How England exits lockdown

The third stage is scheduled for May 17, with the government subsequently intending to remove all legal restrictions on social contact on June 21.

Prof Finn speaking on BBC breakfast Modeling on Wednesday indicates a “summer wave” as the lockdown is relaxed because millions of people are yet to receive at least one dose of a vaccine.

“If people go too far with [the easing of lockdown] too soon, we’ll see things start sooner. The feeling that the problem is over, I’m afraid, is flawed.

“We are still in a vulnerable situation, and there are still a significant number of people who could potentially be harmed by this infection if this happens.”

Asked about the need to adjust the next changes scheduled for May 17, Professor Finn stressed that it was still a “tentative schedule, based on what is actually happening”.

“I think if we start to see significant increases in cases in some parts of the country, they may need to push back those dates in order to prevent the situation from taking effect.”

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At the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, Boris Johnson said there was nothing in the current data to suggest the government could not take the next step of unlocking on May 17.

However, he said most scientists were “firmly convinced” that there would be a third wave of the disease at some point this year.

As of Tuesday, 2,524 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the UK, similar to numbers seen in early September last year.

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