Scientific adviser ‘concerned’ by scenes of London revellers enjoying lockdown ease

Sophia Sleigh
·2-min read
 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

A top scientific adviser today said he was “concerned” by the scenes of London revellers enjoying the easing of lockdown– warning that it could push up infection rates.

Watch: Londoners rush to pubs and restaurants as lockdown restrictions ease

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that every time the country lifts lockdown it pushes infection rates up.

He also suggested the Prime Minister was also concerned about the scenes in London of people enjoying the relaxation of measures

It comes after Boris Johnson said that the fall in Covid-19 cases was not due to the vaccine roll-out programme but mainly down to the country’s national lockdown.

Jeremy Selwyn
Jeremy Selwyn

Asked about those comments, Professor Harnden told BBC Breakfast: "I think he’s right, both vaccination and lockdown have been really important.

“And I think he’s probably concerned, as I am, about the scenes in London that we saw of people actually enjoying the outside, pubs and then the crowded spaces - well, of course what that will do is push infection rates up.

"Every time that we ‘unlockdown’, we push infection rates up, and the danger of pushing infection rates up is we get much more transmission in the community.”

Professor Harnden said they did not want new variants, such as the South African strain, to become prevalent because “the vaccines don’t work quite as well” against it.


He added: "So I think [the Prime Minister] is trying to be cautious with everybody. 

“We will all want to get our lives back, we all want to enjoy ourselves again, but we must be cautious and do this slowly. Otherwise we’ll get back to square one."

He said of course we can “enjoy ourselves” but need to maintain social distancing and be a “little bit more cautious”.

Yesterday the Prime Minister warned Britons to remain cautious, adding: “Of course the vaccination programme has helped, but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.”

Professor Anthony HarndenPA Wire
Professor Anthony HarndenPA Wire

He added: “As we unlock, the result will inevitably be that we will see more infection, sadly we will see more hospitalisation and deaths. People have just got to understand that.”

It comes after the country started unlocking on Monday, with pub dining allowed outside for the first time in months and indoor gyms reopening.

Asked about Professor Harnden’s comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he had not spoken to Mr Johnson about the scenes in London.

However, he said the PM had been clear that the public should continue to “behave responsibly” and added: “There’s nothing to suggest that the vast majority of the public – as they have done throughout – aren’t behaving responsibly.”

Watch: How England will leave lockdown

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