Coronavirus: UK ‘on knife edge’ ahead of lockdown easing, scientist warns

Coronavirus: UK 'on knife edge' ahead of lockdown easing, scientist warns

Bournemouth beach Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A major incident was declared on Bournemouth beach as people flocked to the coast during this week's heatwave

The UK remains "on a knife edge" and must act "sensibly" over the summer months to stop a second wave of coronavirus, a scientist has warned.

Sir Jeremy Farrar said he is "worried" about a surge in cases ahead of pubs and restaurants reopening next month.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said people have to be "conscientious" about the risk of a second wave.

She said the city of Leicester could face a localised lockdown after a rise in cases.

Sir Jeremy, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and director of the Wellcome Trust, has warned there could be a "very nasty rebound" of the virus in the winter.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We're on a knife edge, it's very precarious the situation, particularly in England at the moment, and I would anticipate we would see an increase in new cases over the coming weeks."

The warning comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major easing of England's lockdown restrictions, to help to reopen the economy. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and many other businesses will welcome back customers from 4 July.

Each UK nation's lockdown measures differ, including varying rules on the reopening of food and drink outlets.

In Scotland, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 6 July, and indoor areas can be used from 15 July. In Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants can open from 3 July.

The Welsh government has promised talks with the hospitality sector about a "potential phased" reopening, but no dates have yet been given.

Asked about the concerns raised by Sir Jeremy, the home secretary told the BBC that "nothing would be more damaging for our country and for our economy" than a second spike in virus cases, adding that the government's plans to ease measures were "pragmatic and responsible".

There have been concerns about people gathering around the UK during this week's heatwave, including illegal street parties in London, Manchester and Cardiff, crowded beaches and Liverpool FC fans taking part in mass celebrations.

But Ms Patel encouraged people to go to pubs when they reopen, while urging customers to "be responsible" and follow social distancing and hygiene guidance.

The home secretary also told Andrew Marr that the government is considering imposing a localised lockdown in Leicester after 658 new cases were recorded in the two weeks to 16 June.

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Media captionHome Secretary Priti Patel: "It is right we have a local solution"

She said she had spoken to Health Secretary Matt Hancock about potentially enforcing a local lockdown, and said "extra support" would be going into the area.

But the city's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said there was "no immediate prospect" of a lockdown, adding that data from testing was still being analysed.

Original Article

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