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‘Stronger’ Covid restrictions could be needed in autumn and winter — Experts

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After months of Covid rules, Boris Johnson confirmed last night that he will strip back lockdown to the bare bones from July 19.

He announced a bonfire of Covid restrictions – sweeping away social distancing, mandatory masks and orders to work from home.

All other legal limits will be ripped up on Freedom Day for a summer of fun after a gruelling year and a half of draconian measures.

However, the PM pointedly could not rule out a return to some measures in future.

And Professor Chris Whitty warned of a “very difficult” winter ahead as a double whammy of Covid and flu hits hospitals.

Now, experts have warned that another autumn lockdown could be on the cards – and that some restrictions could be permanent.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies have said that even if hospitalisations and deaths remain low – there are major risks in letting cases surge, and therefore measures may be needed.

And they warned that if a “variant of concern” hits Britain, lockdown restrictions would need to be reimposed for much longer.

The health chiefs said self-isolation when people are ill will still be “critical” in stopping the spread of the bug. And added that working from home and the wearing of masks are “highly effective” long-term option.

The PM told the Downing Street press conference on Monday: “We will continue to monitor the data, and retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods, such as the winter.

“We will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance, and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions with all the costs that they bring.”

And when grilled by reporters, he refused to rule it out completely.

He replied: “If we do find another variant that doesn’t respond to the vaccines, if heaven forbid some really awful new bug should appear, then clearly we will have to take whatever steps we need to do to protect the public.

“But on balance, given the massive success of the vaccine rollout, given the fact that this is a propitious moment, a good moment to do it given the coming summer holidays, the natural firebreak we have there, and given the difficulty of then imagining us opening up in the context of the colder autumn/winter months, I think this is a balanced and cautious approach.”

Some mitigations will continue into the months to come.

Brits won’t have to wear masks by law, but people will still be encouraged to on crowded places, or in NHS settings like hospitals.

A huge row broke out as Labour and some scientists demanded they stay in place for longer – with even Professor Whitty saying he backed keeping them for now.

Tough travel rules will continue too, but the double jabbed will get more freedoms in weeks.

 

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