Trips to the beach are one of the safest things to quickly restart as lockdown measures are lifted, MPs have been told.
Experts whose research feeds in to SAGE have laid out how restrictions could be lifted in the coming months to the Science Committee.
Epidemiologists suggested beach holidays could be one of first things to be allowed again even before the summer.
Prof Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University, who feeds in to Sage sub-group Spi-M, said there was “very little evidence of outdoor transmission” and suggested such activities that were not “mass gatherings” could soon be restarted.
He said: “There were no outbreaks too 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.
“So I think we do have to understand where the risks are and aren’t so that he can do as much as possible safely.”
However trips abroad may have to wait due to the risk of importing dangerous new variants.
Prof Dame Angela McLean, of Oxford University and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Ministry of Defence, said: The evidence was from earlier in the outbreak many cases were imported from Europe by returning holidaymakers.
“It wasn’t mainly imported from China. I think we could learn from that.”
Prof Woolhouse said schools have “never” driven new outbreaks by reversing falling infections, however he acknowledged they could “contribute” to a slower drop.
Prof McLean said school children were often the first person to get infected in a household.
She added: “I think schools needs to be reopened but with caution.”
Falling deaths in the elderly is one of the first measures to flag the impact of vaccinations
The experts told of the first “hints” that vaccines are reducing the overall infection numbers in the general population.
Prof Woolhouse added: “My group does a weekly monitoring of the rate of growth of the epidemic in Scotland, and we have just begun to see a signal, where cases are not growing so fast in the over 75.
“That was the first time in the last week or two. Just in case I want to wait a little longer to be confident that there is a strong signal, but there’s a hint.”
However he added rising infections in a vaccinated population will not cause nearly as many deaths as previous waves.
He added: “The link between the number of hospitalisations and deaths is now much weaker. It’s going to be much weaker than that it was because of the rollout of the vaccination program.”
Accordingly MPs suggested that less emphasis should now be placed on the R number.
Prof McLean said: “We’re trying to get the number of infections to be decreasing and I don’t think we’re an international outlier in doing that.
“I will stick up for the R number.”