Chris Whitty ‘backs July 19 Freedom Day’ but warns of tough winter ahead

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Prof Chris Whitty ‘backs July 19 Terminus Day’ but warns of tough winter ahead (PA Wire)
Prof Chris Whitty ‘backs July 19 Terminus Day’ but warns of tough winter ahead (PA Wire)

Professor Chris Whitty has told ministers they should prepare for a tough winter but has backed plans to ease restrictions on Terminus Day, according to a report.

The chief medical adviser reportedly told a Cabinet briefing on Monday that lockdown could be lifted on July 19 providing the rising Covid-19 cases didn’t lead to a spike in hospitalisations.

Whitty had been “cautiously optimistic” over lifting lockdown, another source told the newspaper.

“The view among the scientists was that we should get as much open this summer as possible before winter, which will be much more difficult,” a cabinet source at the meeting told The Times. “It was very encouraging.”

It comes even as data showed the number of Covid-19 patients on ventilators in England’s hospitals has climbed to its highest level for more than two months.

The average number of patients with Covid-19 in England in mechanical ventilation beds stood at 245 on June 29, according to the NHS England figures.

In comparison, the number remains far below the peak of the second wave when the average hit a high of 3,676 on January 26.

But Downing Street said the NHS was prepared for an increase in admissions of coronavirus patients to intensive care and England was in a “good position” to end lockdown on July 19.

“We have put in a number of additional measures, not least additional ventilators, so we are prepared for this,” the PM’s spokesman told reporters.

“As we have said all along, we know cases will rise, sadly we know that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and whilst the increase has not been as significant as in the past we have seen numbers increase.”

It comes as SAGE Professor Stephen Reicher said the country was in danger of repeating last summer’s mistakes.

In the warmer months last year, people enjoyed more freedoms with pub’s reopening and schemes like Eat Out To Help Out.

The freedoms were short-lived because harsher restrictions were reimposed heavily over the winter as deaths rocketed.

Prof Reicher told Times Radio: “My fear is that we’re on line to repeat the mistakes of last summer, if you remember, the Prime Minister told us it was our patriotic duty to go to the pub, that people should go to work or they might lose their jobs, we had eat out to help out.

“The consequence was we never got infections low enough to be able to deal with the disease and so when conditions changed in the autumn, when schools went back and people went back to work and universities went back and the weather got worse and we went inside, so infections spiked.

“And I think this time round, we should learn from that and we should get infections low to a point where we’re in a much better place in the autumn, where we don’t have to reimpose restrictions.”

The latest daily figures show there were 20,479 new infections reported in the UK on Tuesday and 23 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded.

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