Covid lockdown must stay in place until March to avoid ‘disaster’, expert warns

A top government advisor claims removing current lockdown restrictions in February would be a "disaster" for the NHS and recommended they stay in place until March at the earliest.

Professor John Edmunds, who works on the Government's coronavirus response with the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Radio 4 it would be a "disaster" if restrictions were removed "at the end of February."

He said easing the current lockdown restrictions would be risky as the country hasn’t gone through the first wave of the vaccination process.

Mr Edmunds also said relaxing the restrictions would "immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure" as about half of hospitalisations are in the under 70s.

The professor told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday: "I think it would be a disaster if we removed restrictions in, say, the end of February when we have gone through this first wave of the vaccination.

"First of all vaccines aren't ever 100% protective, and so even those that have been vaccinated would be still at some risk."

He added: "Secondly, it is only a small fraction of the population who would have been vaccinated and if you look at the hospitalisations at the moment, about half of them are in the under 70s, and they are not in the first wave to be vaccinated.

"If we relaxed our restrictions we would immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure again."

The Government forced England into a national lockdown on January 4 after gradually raising each region to Tier 4 under Boris Johnson's Covid management system.

Coronavirus cases have continued to soar through the lockdown, with a further 55,761 lab-confirmed cases announced on Friday 15 January alone.

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A further 1,280 Covid-related deaths were recorded the 24 hours leading up to the 14th, bringing the total to 87,295.

The sobering figures come as Covid variants were identified in large parts of the UK, forcing the Prime Minister to close all travel corridors so as not to overwhelm the NHS.

It is the strictest form of travel restrictions brought into place since the pandemic first started.

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