British public 'will probably get hit by second wave of coronavirus’, expert warns

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
A coronavirus prevention sign in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. (PA)

The British public are “probably right” to be pessimistic about the prospects of a second wave of coronavirus and subsequent lockdown, one of the government’s leading scientific advisers has warned.

Professor John Edmunds, who attends meetings of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that there were around 3,000 new cases a day in England.

A poll that found almost half (48%) of 2,000 adults surveyed expect a second spike in winter, leading to another nationwide lockdown.

Asked if the British public were right to be "pessimistic" about a second wave, Edmunds said: "Yes, probably, I'm sorry to say. I don't want to be too gloomy but they're probably right."

He went on: “I think if you look again at the ONS survey – which is our best measure of what is going on in the community – the numbers of infections measured in that survey have been going down ever since they started it until last week when it went up again.

“That could just be small numbers, when you get these chance events, but it might not be. It might be signalling something.

“The decline has been slowing over the last few weeks - and then we have an increase.”

Edmunds also said he felt “anxious” about the opening of restaurants and bars across England on Saturday, saying that it was a "major change" to the coronavirus lockdown.

He added: "Well on the one hand I want to go to the pub, it has been quite a tough few months. But epidemiologically yes, unfortunately, I am.

"I think what's coming now is quite a major change. Mixing indoors is much more risky than mixing outside.

"Going to a pub, restaurants and so on, cinemas, does carry some risk. You can't reduce that risk to zero, there's no way.

"If you want to encourage people to go, then that is, sort of, encouraging people to mix. Why do you go to the pub if it isn't to have a chat?”

Edmunds said schools would “have to” reopen in September – but warned it would lead to "more widespread transmission”.

"I think we will see the epidemiology change now over the summer unfortunately, and then September comes and we're going to have to open the schools, we can't keep the schools closed forevermore," he told the programme.

"We're going to have to do that. And we'll be opening the schools on the basis of, I think, not much more widespread but more widespread transmission unfortunately."

Following Prof Edmunds comments, on Thursday, the ONS announced that the number of infections in the UK had fallen once again - this time halving to 25,000 at any point between 14 June and 27 June in England.

A sign outside the Fountain pub in Ashurst, Sussex, ahead of its reopening on 4 July. (PA)

His warning comes as Boris Johnson urged the public not to “overdo it” when coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased.

The Prime Minister will lead a Downing Street press conference on Friday evening ahead of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers reopening.

But he has called on people to be careful while enjoying themselves, amid concerns that a failure to observe social distancing could lead to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

The PM’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “(Mr Johnson) has said that he does want to see people able to go out and to enjoy themselves, but he is also very clear that everybody needs to be careful, stay alert and to follow the guidance.

“The guidance is there to keep everybody safe and to control the spread of the virus, and it is hugely important that everybody follows the advice and makes sure that they don’t overdo it.”

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