UK could have flu-type relationship with COVID 'by next year'

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
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Passengers at Waterloo Station in Central London. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the vaccination campaign had allowed England to maintain its current level of coronavirus controls. Picture date: Wednesday December 29, 2021.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that the vaccination campaign had allowed England to maintain its current level of coronavirus controls. (PA)

The UK could have a "flu-type" relationship with COVID-19 by the end of the year, an expert has said.

Life has been turned upside down since coronavirus emerged in the UK in early 2020, with repeated lockdowns, enforced isolation periods and testing becoming a daily part of life.

More than 150,000 people have lost their lives to the deadly virus, and even more left with the effects of 'long COVID'.

But some have said there is light at the end of tunnel, with Dr Mike Tildesley, member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), said that he hoped that by the end of the year the nation would have a “flu-type” relationship with COVID-19.

He told BBC Breakfast: “Say we get into a situation where the virus becomes very, very mild and we are living alongside it – we’re not there yet, but hopefully we will be at some point this year – then we do need to talk about not just cases but also hospital admissions and the number of people who are dying with the disease.

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“If we can get those numbers as low as possible then hopefully we can see restrictions removed and we can live alongside the virus.”

He added: “A while ago I did say probably January is going to be a little bit rocky. If this wave starts to turn around and hopefully as we get towards the warmer weather we can start to see these restrictions removed and we can have more of a discussion about what living with COVID is going to be like and hopefully we won’t see a return to restrictions as we get further through the year.”

Dr Tildesley added that, generally speaking, new variants of viruses tend to be more transmissible but “also generally milder”, adding: “So my hope is that as we get further into this year and, next year, we are dealing with milder versions of COVID and hopefully we have more of a flu-type relationship with COVID where potentially we protect the vulnerable as we get into the colder weather, but we don’t see a return of restrictions.”

However, Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation (WHO) special envoy for COVID-19, warned that "it’s going to be bumpy" before life can resume some semblance of normal.

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(170126) -- GENEVA, Jan. 26, 2017 (Xinhua) -- David Nabarro, UN Special Adviser on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, addresses the media in the headquarters of World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 26, 2017. The WHO Executive Board selected 3 nominees, Pakistani candidate Sania Nishtar, Ethiopian candidate Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and British candidate David Nabarro, for the post of WHO Director-General on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)(zf) (Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)
The UN's Dr David Nabarro has warned there are bumpy times ahead before the virus is fully under control (PA)

He told Sky News: “Though it’s possible to start imagining that the end of the pandemic is not far away, just everybody be ready for the possibility that there will be more variations and mutations coming along, or that there will be further challenges, other surges of even Omicron coming.”

Nabarro added children do not get very ill from COVID-19, and “we’re going to have children acting as vectors of the virus for some time to come”.

He said there was a need to still be “respectful of this virus”, adding: “Do what you can to stop transmitting it. Do what you can to protect others from being affected by it. It’s not the common cold.

“I know people would like it to be but it’s a virus that has still some really unpleasant features. Let’s do our best to protect people from it if we possibly can.”

The UK is just two months away from marking the first national lockdown, when people were largely banned from leaving their own homes except for essential purposes.

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The news comes as Boris Johnson comes under increasing pressure to resign as prime minister after he admitted attending a party during the first lockdown in May 2020.

Downing Street is facing accusations of multiple parties during various lockdowns when the rest of the country were banned from gathering with people outside their households.

More damaging details emerged on Thursday after witnesses revealed that No 10 staff held a "raucous" party the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

The PM admitted attending a party for the first time last week, telling MPs he was present at a gathering in the No 10 garden for 25 minutes in May 2020. He offered a "heartfelt apology", and claimed he believed the gathering was a work event and therefore permitted.

As well as putting pressure on the prime minister, the reports of lockdown parties have called into question the actions of the Metropolitan Police.

The force was accused of an "establishment stitch-up" by Lib Dem leader Ed Davey over their decision not to investigate the No 10 gatherings.

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