Senior Medic Urges Caution as ‘Dangerous Wave’ on U.K. Doorstep

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Britons must follow social-distancing rules as pandemic restrictions are eased to avoid the “dangerous wave” of infections currently seen in neighboring countries, a senior medic warned.

“Following guidance continues to be a matter of high protection for us all,” Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said in a statement Thursday, noting that half of England’s population does not yet have protective antibodies from either recent infection or vaccination.

“Many countries, including those on our doorstep, are facing another dangerous wave,” she said.

Her warning follows an intervention from Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging people to “exercise restraint” as his government unlocks more parts of the economy. Britons flocked to beer gardens and high street shops after they were reopened on Monday.

Latest government data released Thursday shows that coronavirus cases have continued to fall across all regions of England. But the World Health Organization warned this week that globally, the pandemic is still growing exponentially.

France, Germany and Poland have battled rises in Covid cases in recent weeks, with some European leaders being forced to reimpose partial lockdowns to get the virus under control.

Relaxing Rules

Britain’s rapid vaccination rollout appears to have helped fend off a fresh surge so far; more than three in five U.K. adults have had at least one shot.

But there are fears that lifting restrictions too quickly could result in a rapid rise in infections and the potential emergence of vaccine-resistant strains -- undermining Johnson’s plan to fully reopen the economy by June 21.

“Of course the vaccination program has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown,” Johnson said in a pooled broadcast interview Tuesday. “As we unlock, the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, sadly we will see more hospitalization and deaths. People have just got to understand that.”

Scientists are concerned about the spread of a variant first identified in South Africa, and parts of London are rolling out surge testing amid a rise in cases.

“If we start going wild and completely ignore all the basic rules, then we will see more transmission and things like the South African variant will become more prevalent,” Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, told ITV on Wednesday.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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