COVID data ‘looking promising’, says expert, but risks remain ‘in relaxing too quickly’

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and a senior scientific adviser, has said data on vaccine effectiveness and how quickly infection, deaths and hospital cases are declining is “looking promising at the moment”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The trade off we have is between how quickly can we relax and how quickly we can immunise and protect the population.

“And there’s still risks at the moment in relaxing too quickly when we don’t have enough immunity in the population bearing in mind that no vaccine is a panacea, no vaccine will offer perfect protection.”

He said the “downside of taking bigger risks is you risk having to lock down again which is even more disruptive economically and socially”.

He added: “I am encouraged by the cautious approach being taken, an incremental approach which I think will be adopted, namely relax one thing and see what the impact is, relax again. And it still may well be that by the end of May, we’re in a very different country than we are today.”

He said this meant rules would still be in place “but I think society will be a lot more normal”.

But he said that depended on things panning out as hoped, and as the current data suggests they will.

“There are threats out there, we don’t know for instance quite how effective the vaccines are, how long immunity will last, there is the threat of variants. So we have to be driven by the data and the trends we see.”

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