Vaccine Data ‘So Good’ Lockdown Could Be Lifted Early, Says SAGE Scientist

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Tourists enjoy the hot weather at Bournemouth beach on May 25, 2020 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a …
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A government scientific advisor has said that vaccination numbers are looking “so good”, there’s hope of lifting lockdown early.

The UK has vaccinated some 17 million people and could have given both doses of the vaccines to all adults by August or September. With far greater vaccine success than on the continent, at one point during last week the UK had given the first dose to more people than the entire EU27 combined.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, who belongs to a subgroup of the influential Scientific Advisory Committee on Emergencies (SAGE), told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday: “If you’re driven by data and not the dates, right now you should be looking at early unlocking because the data are so good.”

“The vaccination rollout is I think exceeding most people’s expectations,” Professor Woolhouse said, according to LBC.

The University of Edinburgh epidemiologist remarked on the “actual performance of the vaccine”, saying that both the numbers related to the “transmission-blocking potential” and the “actual ability to protect against death and disease and to keep people out of hospital” looked “really good”.

The member of SAGE’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) also said that the government was slow to ease lockdown last March, owing to a lack of confidence in the scientific data, particularly with regards to reopening schools and outdoor sporting.

“I think we probably could have considered reopening schools much sooner in the first lockdown,” he said.

Professor Woolhouse continued: “The other thing, quite clearly, is outdoor activities. Again, there was evidence going back to March and April that the virus is not transmitted well outdoors.

“There’s been very, very little evidence that any transmission outdoors is happening in the UK.

“Those two things, I think, could have been relaxed sooner in the first lockdown.”

He also confirmed that there had been no outbreaks linked to crowded beaches, giving fresh hope to Britons hoping at least for a holiday in the UK, even if international travel is banned.

Woolhouse said: “Over the summer, we were treated to all this on the television news and pictures of crowded beaches and there was an outcry about this.

“There were no outbreaks linked to crowded beaches. There’s never been a Covid-19 outbreak linked to a beach ever anywhere in the world to the best of my knowledge.”

Whitehall sources told media on Wednesday that in order for there to be any significant easing of lockdown measures, recorded cases of the Chinese virus would have to fall from the current rate of some 10,000 to the hundreds.

Chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady accused the government of moving the goalposts over what conditions lockdown would be lifted, since when the prime minister first outlined a fall in hospitalisations, deaths, and a successful vaccine system when declaring the lockdown on January 4th.

Brady said: “Now the picture is profoundly different. All of the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated. Positive test numbers, hospitalisations, deaths are all falling rapidly.

“The presumption should be that people are given back control over their own lives, and we move from a world of arbitrary regulation to one where we are able to take responsibility for ourselves and each other. We cannot allow the goalposts to be moved every time we are about to reach freedom.”

On Monday, the prime minister said that he wanted this lockdown — England’s third — to be the last, but would not commit to ruling out a fourth in the future.

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