Sir Patrick: UK in ‘very uncertain phase’ of Covid pandemic

The UK is still in a “very uncertain phase” of the pandemic, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has said.

Max Channon www.devonlive.com

Sir Patrick Vallance told the Today programme: “There is considerable uncertainty into which direction this goes,” he said.

“It’s wrong to think that the build up of immunity is an all or nothing – it’s a sort of protective barrier that will reduce the spread of the virus so we need to monitor this carefully over the next weeks and months.

He added: “You need to absolutely be prepared (for plan B) and as soon as you start thinking ‘am I, or am I not going to do this? It looks close’ is the time you need to push beyond your natural reluctance to do it and do it.

“This is obviously something the government will have to consider carefully but we need to be ready to move fast if that occurs.”

The Government’s chief scientific adviser said the models around what will happen with Covid-19 are “quite uncertain at the moment” and there is a lot of variability.

Sir Patrick Vallance told BBC Breakfast: “Nobody is really clear which direction this is going in, but they are clear about the two big variables that could change that.

“One is waning immunity, so if immunity wanes faster than expected, you’ll see a bigger increase, and that’s why it’s so important to get booster shots going in the vulnerable and the elderly in particular.

“The second is the behavioural change, how quickly we return to pre-pandemic behaviours… if you aggregate the models, most are saying ‘Actually, it looks fairly flat, don’t expect the very big peaks we’ve had in the past, it looks fairly flat, but at a very high level at the moment.’

“So the high level remains a concern and from a high level you can go up quite quickly.”

He said that, as immunity builds from vaccination and infection in children, “there will be a resistance to transmissions (and) you may expect that (surge in children) to level off”.

Asked if more than 40,000 Covid cases a day is a level that can be dealt with and is acceptable, he said: “Well, that’s a societal question.

“There are high levels, and those high levels, of course, translate into levels of hospitalisation, but the levels of hospitalisation are very much reduced by vaccination.

“The lower the levels, the better in terms of overall overall outcome, but there are costs and consequences of decisions in both directions there.

“So that’s a societal question about what levels are acceptable.

“I will say though – and it’s an important point to make – that, as this infection becomes gradually becomes endemic, it will occur year on year, we will see this circulating every winter, I suspect, in particular.

“And so, gradually, as immunity builds, the protection will be there, the consequences will be reduced, but we’re not not there yet.

“We’ve still got, clearly, people going into hospital, it’s still a significant risk.”

Yesterday, the Government said a further 207 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 140,041.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 165,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 43,941 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer is the fourth MP to test positive in the past week. Masks are compulsory for staff but optional for MPs. Jacob Rees-Mogg pointedly didn’t wear one during the budget speech. – Owl

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