UK Chief Scientist Claims It Would Be ‘Insanity’ to Lift Restrictions Early

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20: A deserted Piccadilly Circus during the COVID-19 UK lockdown on January 20, 2021 in London, England . (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

England’s chief scientific adviser has claimed that it would be “insanity” to lift lockdown restrictions early.

The remarks come amidst weeks of government ministers either shifting the projected end date of lockdown further back or saying that they could not tell at all when Britons could have their freedoms restored to them.

Sir Patrick Vallance was responding to those he claimed were “perpetually” asking for lockdown to be lifted, saying according to The Times: “It’s worth remembering Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.”

“The lesson is every time you release it too quickly you get an upswing,” he added.

England went into a third lockdown on January 4th, having barely been a month out of the second. When the November lockdown was lifted on December 2nd, vast swathes of England’s population found themselves in restrictions higher than they went into lockdown, with 99 per cent of people in Tiers 2 and 3.

Conor Burns, a Conservative MP, remarked at the time the tier boundaries were revealed: “How can you end a four-week lockdown in a worse place in terms of restrictions than before it?”

Vallance also said that once restrictions begin to be lifted, it will be over a period of time.

“I think it’s important to recognise this is not going to be a sort of big bang, ‘great, take the lid off, everything’s fine, we can all go back to normal’. This is going to be a slow release, monitoring carefully, understanding the effects,” he said.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the third lockdown at the beginning of this month, he refused to give an end date when restrictions could be lifted, despite the advancements in developing and administering vaccinations. Instead, he expressed hope that he could change policy by mid-February but only “if things go well”.

Less than 24 hours alter, senior minister Michael Gove indicated that it was more likely to be some time in March. The following day, the coronavirus legislation revealed that measures could be in place until March 31st.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “impossible to know” when restrictions could start to be lifted. Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis said this week it was “too early” to tell if measures would be relaxed in time for Easter, which starts on April 2nd.

Labour shadow minister Lisa Nandy claimed on Wednesday that the government’s powerful Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had told her that restrictions could be lifting “sometime around April”.

While Tony Blair’s research institute predicts lockdown could be ended by mid-May — but only if the government vaccinated 600,000 people a day by March.

Ministers have also said that the end of restrictions will not come all at once, with the de facto deputy prime minister Dominic Raab saying that while he “hopes” to see restrictions being reduced in March, he expects the country will move back into regional tiers.

Lockdown sceptics in the backbench have warned Mr Johnson that his premiership is at risk unless he outlines an exit plan.

“Government has adopted a strategy devoid of any commitment to liberty without any clarification about when our most basic freedoms will be restored and with no guarantee that they will never be taken away again,” MP Steve Baker had written to fellow Conservative lockdown rebels.


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