UK virologist urges caution as COVID-19 restrictions eased on 'Freedom Day'

Add Time:2021-07-21 Hits:66

As England moved to the final stage of lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Monday in what has been dubbed "Freedom Day", medical experts are reminding the public to exercise caution.

In an interview with Xinhua, Stephen Winchester, consultant virologist at Berkshire and Surrey Pathology Services, said it was imperative that the British government continues to urge the public to remain cautious.

"I think there is that risk (of infections rising as restrictions are eased)," said Wincheser.

This Monday has seen almost all legal restrictions on social contact being removed. There are now no limits on how many people can meet or attend events, nightclubs reopened at midnight, and face coverings will be recommended in some spaces but not required by law.

Vaccines, according to Winchester, had been key in allowing Britain to have its Freedom Day.

"It's in the backdrop of the vaccination program, and also with some degree of caution as well in the timing of the year," the expert said.

He noted that there remains an element of caution in the final step of release in terms of trying to encourage people to meet outside and encouraging the use of face masks where deemed appropriate.

The easing of restrictions is always a judgment, which might be proved wrong, he added.

Talking about the concern that infections rise could give way to new variants emerging, the virologist said the threat of new variants will "always be there".

"Globally new variants can emerge, as we've seen all across the globe. So I don't think that not lifting restrictions eliminates that risk. I think there is still transmission even with restrictions. So there's always a risk of a new variant emerging," he said.

Some scientists have predicted that Britain's infections, currently at about 50,000 a day, could reach 200,000 a day later in the summer.

What's key, Winchester believes, is that Britain continues with its strong vaccination program and testing structure.

Both scientists and the British government have acknowledged that although vaccines have weakened the link between COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, it has not severed it.

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