People will have to self-isolate after coming into contact with Covid-19 for many years as the UK learns how to “live with this virus”, a government adviser has warned.
He also admitted to being “nervous about a full relaxation in June”, calling the idea of emerging from the lockdown “in one great bound” wide of the mark.
“I still suspect that looking forward – and I am talking now right through 2021 and into the years ahead – that we are still going to have to be alert to coronavirus,” Prof Woolhouse said.
“There are still going to be situations where we might need to use personal protective equipment, we might well need to do some kind of social distancing, put some kind of biosecurity measures in place.”
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It would also be necessary to “maintain our capacity to test and trace, and particularly to isolate people who are infected,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“That final thing is going to remain important for the entire future – that, when we get cases of novel coronavirus, that those people are then going to have to be asked to self-isolate and their contacts.”
Prof Woolhouse, who sits on the SPI-M modelling group, which feeds advice into the main Sage body, also said vaccine certificates to enter nightclubs and other venues might be necessary.
“It’s certainly something we have to consider seriously as part of a wider package of measures that are designed to make our activities safe,” he warned.
And, on another lockdown, he said: “We should regard that as a failure of public health policy if we have to go that route again.”
The comments came as a cabinet minister described the worsening Covid situation on the continent as “very worrying” casting further doubt on hopes for foreign holidays this summer.
Rising cases across the Channel have tended to hit the UK “a couple of weeks or three weeks later”, Oliver Dowden said – when asked if the go-ahead would be given.
The culture secretary – while insisting the lockdown-easing was currently on track – also warned the public that restrictions might have to stay in place beyond mid-summer.
“Of course they could if the situation deteriorates,” Mr Dowden said, ahead of the return of groups of up to six being able to meet in England on Monday.
Prof Woolhouse added: “I have to say I am a little bit nervous about a full relaxation in June.
“This is the particularly important thing, exactly how well are the vaccines performing? If they are going at this rate, I think we can get quite close to a full release.
“The idea that we can suddenly emerge from this in one great bound, I think, is a little over-optimistic.”
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