Lockdown still needed to protect lives

| 20th April 2020
Dr Jenny Harries, England's deputy chief medical officer, warns premature lifting of coronavirus lockdown measures would allow 'second wave'.

If we don't keep doing the social distancing, we will create a second peak.

The UK risks a second wave of coronavirus deaths if social distancing warnings are not heeded, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned.

Dr Jenny Harries said the relatively low increase in hospital deaths - up 596 from 15,464 as of 5pm on Saturday - is "positive news".

But she cautioned against reading too much into the figures, saying they reflected the usual drop in cases confirmed at weekends.


Asked during the daily Downing Street press briefing last night whether the UK is "past the peak" of coronavirus, Dr Harries said: "We could jump to all sorts of positive conclusions about that but we shouldn't.

"I do think it is fair to say that we do know from the hospital data that we are starting to plateau across."

She added: "If we don't keep doing the social distancing, we will create a second peak and we definitely won't be past it so this is no reason to consider that we have managed this. But I do think things look to be heading in the right direction." 

It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ruled out opening schools over the summer to help plug gaps in learning caused by weeks of lockdown.

Mr Williamson also batted off criticism that Boris Johnson missed five Cobra meetings as coronavirus began to tighten its grip on China and much of continental Europe.


Dr Harries defended the country's approach to managing the spread of the virus. She said: "We had and we still have a very clear plan - we had a containment phase and it was very successful.

"We had very strict quarantine regimes from high-risk areas, we followed up individual cases and families wherever that was possible.

"But once you end up with seeding and cases across the community, our focus has to be on managing the clinical conditions of those individuals."

Dr Harries said there needs to be "a more adult" conversation regarding lingering questions over the availability of PPE for front-line workers in hospitals and care homes, saying there was "a huge pull on services".


She said: "I think we perhaps need to, rather than lumping all of the PPE together, which is not a homogeneous mix at all, we just need to think carefully through what has been achieved and the challenges which are acknowledged ahead."

Meanwhile, a delivery of 84 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers has been delayed. Mr Williamson said the government will be responding to manufacturers about producing new PPE within the next 24 hours. 

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he is "optimistic" about finding a vaccine for Covid-19.

But Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University, who is leading a team developing a Covid-19 vaccine, said nobody can be sure it is possible to find a workable vaccine.

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This article is based on copy supplied by PA.

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