UEA expert in infectious diseases expects delay to 'Freedom Day'
- Credit: Archant © 2013
A Norwich-based expert in infectious diseases expects so-called 'Freedom Day' to be delayed - but says the country must soon "takes its chances".
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said he would "not be surprised" to see a deferral of either two or four weeks.
June 21 was the government's intended date to lift all remaining Covid restrictions as part of its roadmap set out back in February.
But the spread of the virus' Delta variant has left Boris Johnson considering a delay to combat rising case numbers.
And Prof Hunter, who specialises in the transmission of emerging infectious diseases, believes a slight change of plan would represent a sensible decision.
"Listening to the general mood of what ministers are saying, I suspect there will be a delay - maybe two weeks, maybe four," said Prof Hunter.
"It would not surprise me at all, to be honest, and it is difficult to argue against.
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"In another four weeks you are looking at the start of the school holidays, when transmission will be lower than it is while children are in classrooms."
Amid increasing concern over the Delta strain, new research from Public Health England has shown it is 60pc more transmissible than the Alpha/Kent strain.
After one dose, vaccines were found to be 17pc less effective against the Delta variant than the Alpha, but there was only a small decline in efficacy after both jabs.
However, with the rollout continuing at impressive pace, Prof Hunter said there must come a point when life returns to normal.
"We know the vaccine works and, if you get infected after having both doses, you generally have a much milder illness," he added.
"If the stated objective is to reduce severe disease, the rollout has been successful.
"Covid is not going away. I have been saying for a year that our grandchildren's grandchildren will living with it, but it will not cause a great deal of severe disease.
"Ultimately there has to be a point where we say 'we have done as much as we can to protect people - we must release these restrictions and take our chances.' We are getting close to that point."