A scientific adviser to the government’s response to Covid-19 has expressed fear that England may be in danger of repeating “the mistakes of last summer.”
Professor Stephen Reicher, from the University of St Andrews and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) subcommittee on behavioral sciences, said the government may have to re-impose restrictions if the reopening leads to an increase in infections. .
He told Times Radio: “My fear is that we are in line to repeat the mistakes of last summer; If you remember, the prime minister told us that it was our patriotic duty to go to the pub, that people should go to work or they might lose their jobs, we had to “go out to eat to help.”
“The consequence was that we never got infections low enough to be able to deal with the disease, and therefore when conditions changed in the fall, when schools came back and people went back to work and colleges came back and the weather got worse and we went inside, so the infections increased.
“This time, we should learn from that and we should reduce infections to a point where we are in a much better place in the fall, where we don’t have to re-enforce restrictions.
“So the real question is how can we do that without upsetting people too much?”
Many of the bars and restaurants that will reopen in July and August were forced to close as the UK entered a second national shutdown on November 5 after infections spiked.
A sharp increase in cases in recent weeks has dented hopes that restrictions will be lifted before the government’s “target date” of July 19.
Reicher added that testing and tracking were still not working properly or were not contacting people quickly enough, noting the lack of support for people to isolate themselves.
He said: “It seems to me that if we get the basic public health measures right to suppress the infection, we are not talking about a large pool of infection that can then increase very rapidly when conditions change.”