Three members of the UK's government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have warned that loosening lockdown restrictions could lead to a spike in new cases of coronavirus.
While speaking to Sky News, Professor John Edmunds said that small changes can cause an increase in the reproduction rate above one. Claiming that the most important thing "is that we still have a lot of cases".
"The number of infections that we have is about 8,000 new infections every day in England alone, and that's just in the community.
"There's more infections happening in hospitals and care homes and other enclosed settings, which wouldn't be included."
Epidemiologist and SAGE member Professor John Edmunds says it is risky to ease lockdown at this stage as the R rate is "only just below one" leaving "not a lot of room for manoeuvre" and that England alone is still seeing 8,000 new infections a day.https://t.co/97DJOduVPY pic.twitter.com/QE5EmrU0yR— SkyNews (@SkyNews) May 30, 2020
Professor Edmunds' comments were supported by fellow SAGE member Sir Jeremy Farrar who shared criticism the governments 'track and trace' system, which was launched on Thursday.
Sir Jeremy said on Twitter that the pandemic was spreading "too far" in England the system should "fully working" before restrictions are loosened.
Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. Agree with John & clear science advice. TTI has to be in place, fully working, capable dealing any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results & infection rates have to be lower. And trusted https://t.co/ZmYKs4Go3W— Jeremy Farrar (@JeremyFarrar) May 29, 2020
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Professor Peter Horby was asked if he agreed with Professor Edmunds and Sir Jeremy.
"Actually, I do", Professor Horby said.
"You know, we have still got 8,000 cases a day. We have been very successful in bringing it down, decreasing the numbers because of the social distancing".
"But, you will have heard that the R level is between 0.7 and 0.9, so it's only a bit below one, so, we have got very little headroom, actually", he added.
"And, it's really important that we use that headroom very wisely and we don't lose control again".
The warnings come as a Downing Street spokesperson admitted on Friday that the government has initiated the lifting of the lockdown restrictions before experts are able to drop the coronavirus threat level from “high”.
Coronavirus threat level remains at 4, under which the governments' own advice says full social distancing measures must be maintained. The lockdown is only supposed to be reduced at level 3.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that that up to 6 people can convene in groups on the condition that social distancing measures are abided by.