COVID-19: UK could face 'fragile moment' in response to coronavirus, expert warns

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The UK could soon face a "fragile moment" in its response to the coronavirus crisis, Scotland's national clinical director has warned.

Jason Leitch said Scotland is going through a "hump" as it battles an increase in COVID-19 cases as a result of the Delta variant and the relaxation of its coronavirus lockdown rules - with schools already reopened in Scotland.

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Asked about what will happen when schools in England reopen next week, Prof Leitch told Sky News: "I think you will see an increase. I hope you don't see the sudden, acute surge that we saw, but I fear you might."

He explained: "Two things happen when schools open: one is obvious, young people mix. But the other thing we know from research and polling is that when you take your kids to school, you can mix, so adult contact also increases when schools go back because there's less childcare requirement.

"That 20s, 30s, early 40s group who have kids at school, they begin to go around socially, see pals, see people indoors, go to hospitality more than they did when their kids were at home. So the whole of society has a bump when schools go back. And that adult group is what worries us actually more than the young people."

He urged the public to get double vaccinated, take COVID tests twice a week, and follow the rules.

"Just be careful, and then we're hopeful we'll get over this hump," Prof Leitch said. "That's going to take a bit of time, hospitals will take a bit of time to get through all those cases.

"And if we get over that hump, then we can continue these relaxations. It's a very fragile moment for Scotland, and I think that fragile moment is probably coming for the rest of the UK."

Prof Leitch said Scotland's rise in cases was primarily down to the Delta variant, which he said was "the fundamental cause, the most infectious version of this virus that we've had anywhere in the world".

He said the variant "came early to Scotland, into Glasgow, and seeded across the whole country".

The rise in cases after Scotland relaxed restrictions was "depressingly predictable," Prof Leitch said, adding: "If you allow people to come together, this virus finds a way to find them. It finds the unprotected, and it sometimes finds breakthrough ways of reaching the protected."

It comes as officials say ministers intend to roll out a COVID-19 booster programme from September.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "We are still awaiting the final advice from JCVI on boosters.

"It is still very much our intention to roll out the booster programme during September."

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