Chris Whitty warns of lockdown roadmap risks

  • England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, says easing lockdown restrictions could unleash a fourth COVID wave
  • Children’s return to school could negatively affect the infection rate
  • UK government closes down temporary Nightingale hospitals
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused of failing NHS health workers
  • British government introduces new form for overseas travel

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, warned the UK government about a possible fourth wave of the coronavirus sweeping across the country as officials ease lockdown restrictions.

Professor Chris Whitty defended UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap, stating that a jump in the infection rate is inevitable as all “modelling” suggests cases will spike after coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased.

The Chief Medical Officer also delivered a grim prediction on the COVID death count likely to result as Britain emerges from lockdown, despite 33% of the population being inoculated against the virus.

However, he pointed out that the flu still claims up to 20,000 lives a year even though the UK has been vaccinating against influenza for more than eight decades.

Professor Whitty also insisted that the “ratio of COVID-19 cases to deaths will decline sufficiently” as the vaccine takes effect and more people become inoculated.

However, some people may be a little reluctant to take the jab after research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 7,000 people were experiencing adverse side effects after receiving the jab.

According to the CDC, most people experiencing vaccine side effects in the US are women, many of which reported headaches, fatigue, and dizziness after receiving the jab.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revealed that approximately one in every six adults aged 16-29 are reluctant to have the jab, which could raise the risk of transmission as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Nonetheless, Professor Whitty maintained that it was safer to lift restrictions now that the vaccine is in the arms of the most vulnerable. He added that the slow easing of curbs also gives lower priority groups more time to receive vaccines, reducing the risk of younger people spreading the virus.

Still, the Chief Medical Officer opposes calls for the economy to reopen sooner, warning that “a lot more people will die… I think it’s easy to forget quite how quickly things can turn bad if you don’t keep a very, very close eye on it.”

He cited the recent surge in cases across the European Union and other parts of the world, with most leaders wishing they had taken a more cautious approach on easing lockdown.

His warnings come as the number of daily coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK drops to its lowest levels since September, and the first stage of Boris Johnson’s lockdown plan gets underway – children’s return to school.

COVID-19 mutations raise concerns

Children’s return to school this week could alter the lockdown roadmap

Millions of children returned to the classroom on Monday amid warnings that the reopening of schools could negatively impact the infection rate and cause further delays to the reopening of the economy.

The news sparked alarm from several Conservative MPs who have been urging UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to loosen restrictions earlier than planned.

Although the UK is reporting its lowest levels of daily COVID cases since September 2020, the Prime Minister said that the number of hospitalisations is still eight times higher than rates seen last summer, implying that the risk of transmission remains high.

While the infection rate has been following a downward trajectory, it’s at the same levels seen when scientists advised the UK government to impose a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown, which eventually led to the one-month order in November.

Talks of a possible spike in daily cases come amid news that four of the seven emergency Nightingale hospitals established to help the NHS cope with the influx of COVID patients will be shut down in April.

UK government will shutdown Nightingale hospitals

On Monday, government officials said that the Nightingale hospitals were set up as an “ultimate insurance policy” for the NHS if hospitals across the UK became overwhelmed, will close next month.

Seven of the hospitals were constructed in England, with another in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Scotland and Wales also established temporary hospitals during the winter surge in COVID-19 cases.

The Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Harrogate hospitals will close permanently, while the London and Sunderland sites will remain open as vaccination centres.

With coronavirus cases declining across the country and the vaccine rollout well underway, the NHS no longer needs the hospitals.

However, NHS Providers Chief Executive, Chris Hopson, said it would be a “success” if the NHS didn’t need to use the temporary hospitals.

Mr Hopson has also got behind calls from the Chief Executive Officer of the NHS, Simon Stevens, for all health workers to receive a COVID reward for working tirelessly through the pandemic in extremely challenging conditions.

The UK Prime Minister has been accused of failing to honour his promise to recompense NHS staff with his 1% wage increase proposal. Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer attacked the government over the “miserly” pay rise and demanded health care workers receive a minimum wage increase of 2.1%.

However, Mr Johnson responded by stating that 1% is as much as the government can offer NHS health workers at the moment due to the effects of the pandemic.

Will the COVID-19 disease ever be eradicated from the world?

UK government scientists have warned that a zero-COVID strategy is impossible at this point and that new variants will continue emerging as lockdowns are lifted, and overseas travel resumes.

Professor Chris Whitty noted that just as the flu mutates every year, it’s likely that COVID-19 will too, which makes eliminating the virus impossible once countries reopen their borders.

It comes as the UK government introduces new rules for passengers that are legally permitted to travel abroad.

To avoid illegal overseas travel, passengers departing the UK from March 8th will now have to complete an international travel form detailing the nature of their trip before boarding their flight.

Airlines and other travel companies will have to cross-check the forms at check-in or the boarding gate to ensure passengers are authorised to travel.

The new Declaration of Travel form comes atop of other rules announced by the British government, such as producing a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departure in their latest efforts to reduce the threat of new mutant strains.

UK coronavirus rules are among some of the most stringent in the world, compared to nations such as the USA, with vaccinated Americans allowed to meet indoors with vaccinated and non-vaccinated people without wearing a mask or social distancing.

People inoculated against COVID-19 in the USA are also allowed to skip testing and quarantine when exposed to the virus unless they develop associated symptoms.

Despite the risk of transmission still being high as mutant strains threaten vaccine efficacy, the more lax rules in the US have done little to damage the country’s recovery outlook.

While the UK’s more cautious approach could stall economic recovery, recent comments from Bank of England (BoE) Governor Andrew Bailey on interest rates and rising inflation posing a threat to UK economic activity has renewed optimism.

Mr Bailey’s comments have also triggered bullish momentum in pound Sterling (GBP) exchange rates, and the UK currency has reclaimed recent losses against the US dollar (USD).

At the time of writing, the British pound to US dollar (GBP/USD) exchange rate is trading 0.5% higher at USD 1.3891, and further gains could be in store if US yields continue to retreat, and the risk-on mood lessens the appeal of the US dollar (USD).

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