Tuesday, August 3, 2021
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Plan to holiday in the UK this summer, Professor Neil Ferguson says

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People should plan to holiday in the UK this summer, a senior scientific adviser has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson whose modelling led to the first UK lockdown last March, said relaxing border measures too early risked the success of the UK’s vaccination programme.

He said the risk from Europe is the arrival of new variants, or importing cases of the troubling South African variant from countries where cases were rising.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “Just because there’s a large epidemic in Europe does not inevitably mean we will have a large epidemic here.

I certainly am in favour of relaxing border measures at a slower rate than we relax controls within the country, and doing all we can to reduce the risk of importation of variants which might undermine our vaccination programme

“What determines whether we have transmission here is how immune the population is, how much we’ve rolled out vaccine, and the remaining social distancing controls in place.

“We’ve done very well in rolling out vaccine so far, so we’re in a different position from Europe.

“In some sense what they’re seeing now is what we saw back last November/ December with the so-called B117 or Kent variant.

“I should say we also have some of the South African variant here already and other variants which may be similar, which we’re watching very carefully, so that is overall the major concern going forward and why we need to be vigilant, not just looking at Europe, and what’s happening within our borders as well.”

Prof Ferguson said the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines “might drop substantially, 60% or 50%” in the face of variants.

“And what that means is if we then allow transmission to resume which it is likely to do as we relax social distancing measures, we have that faint risk of being back in a situation where we have rising infections, rising hospitalisations with people who have been vaccinated,” he said.

“And back to, in the worst case, where we were in Janaury.

“So, the effectiveness, exactly how effective vaccines is, is very critical to how quickly we’re able.. to relax measures.”

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