Lockdowns won’t end until anticipated vaccines “come to our aid” in the future and the country can expect a “hard winter”, the Prime Minister has said, as the government’s science advisor warned it is quite possible the coronavirus will simply mutate to outperform vaccinations.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference hours after the details of the new post-lockdown-lockdown were revealed to the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear to the nation that there was no reasonable hope of lockdown ending soon, saying merely that there was “reason to hope” that spring would see an end of “this era of restrictions”.
Given the United Kingdom’s regime of lockdowns began in March 2020, it stands to reason that the Prime Ministers remarks confirm that the nation’s lockdown will be in place with varying degrees of intensity for at least a full calendar year.
As England emerges from the so-called second lockdown running into early December and heads straight into tighter-than-before tiered regional lockdowns, the Prime Minister also teased that things stand to get worse before they improve. Johnson said: “to get there we must first navigate a hard winter, when the burden on our NHS is heaviest, and cold weather favours the virus… If we ease off now, we risk losing control all over again.”
Ultimately, Mr Johnson said, perpetual lockdown would do nothing but “suppress” the coronavirus until a vaccine comes “to our aid”.
Yet subsequent comments by the science experts flanking the Prime Minister at Thursday’s conference made clear that the arrival of a vaccine would not necessarily herald the end of Covid-19 as repeat vaccinations may, in the eyes of the government, be required in return for allowing society to re-establish itself.
Speaking after the PM, Patrick Vallance said of the propensity of viruses to mutate for their own survival: “it is possible that as the vaccines work, and they put pressures on the virus, that the virus mutates and other forms arise that would require new vaccines in due course. So I don’t think it is the case that the vaccines we have now will be the ones we have forever, we may have to get new ones”.
Vallance compared the mutation to the flu virus and the annual vaccinations released for the virus.
Chris Whitty also interjected on the matter of repeated vaccinations, remarking that with some diseases, immunity falls with time and so top-up courses are required.