UK scientists have warned that lifting all Covid-19 restrictions is like building new “variant factories” at a very rapid pace, and said the attitude of the new health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, is “terrifying”.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Javid said that the best way to protect the nation’s health was by lifting major Covid-19 restrictions. “The rules that we have had to implement have caused a shocking increase in domestic violence and a terrible impact on the mental health of many people,” he said.
In response to the comments, Professor Stephen Reicher from the University of St Andrews, a member of the Sage subcommittee that advises on behavioral sciences, tweeted: “It’s scary to have a ‘health’ secretary who still thinks Covid is the flu. Who does not care about infection levels. Who doesn’t realize that those who do what is best for health also do what is best for the economy? Who wants to ditch all the protections while only half of us are vaccinated?
“Above all, it is terrifying to have a ‘health’ secretary who wants all protections to be a matter of personal choice when the key message of the pandemic is ‘this is not a’ me ‘thing, it’s a’ us thing ‘. “
On Monday, the cabinet is expected to approve the easing of several Covid restrictions in England, including authorization fully vaccinated adults to travel to amber list countries without having to isolate themselves when they return; make the use of face masks voluntary, as well as in hospitals and other healthcare settings; and they no longer require fully vaccinated adults to undergo a Covid-19 test or self-isolate or have come into contact with an infected person.
The school’s “bubble” system that has forced hundreds of thousands of students to isolate themselves at home is also expected to be eliminated if someone in their bubble tests positive; while bar and restaurant patrons will no longer have to scan an NHS QR code upon arrival.
Javid said: “We need to be clear that cases are going to increase significantly. I know a lot of people will be wary of easing restrictions, that’s completely understandable. But no date we choose will come without risk, so we must take a broad and balanced view.
“We will have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to deal with it, as we already do with the flu.”
Professor Susan Michie, Director of the Center for Behavior Change at University College London, and another member of Sage’s behavioral science subcommittee, tweeted: “Allowing community broadcasting to increase is like building new ‘variant factories’ to a very fast pace. “