Virus expert joins calls to delay Freedom Day

Epidemiologist Sian Griffiths said an ‘all-or-nothing Freedom Day’ could be a bad idea.

Diners in London
Diners in London

A prominent academic has joined calls for the Government to postpone its planned lifting of coronavirus restrictions on June 21 to preserve the progress the country has made in battling the pandemic.

Epidemiologist Sian Griffiths also said an envisaged “all-or-nothing Freedom Day” could be a bad idea in itself, promoting instead a more gradual lifting of measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated on Saturday that he is set to announce a four-week delay for lifting restrictions, calling the spread of the Delta variant, first identified in India, a matter of “serious, serious concern”.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Professor Griffiths, an associate director of Public Health England, said the recent rise in Covid cases in the UK has changed the landscape on reopening.

“The public health advice would be to take it slowly and in a sustained way so we can keep up the progress we’ve been making,” she told BBC TV.

“It does depend on the balance. It’s a political decision at the end of the day, what happens on the 21st of June, but, from a public health point of view, we’re seeing the cases increase, we’re seeing a slight increase in hospitalisation in areas where there are a lot of cases, and the vaccination does work, but we need to get second doses into everybody over 50, and expand the vaccination programme to keep everybody safe.

“I think waiting a little bit longer to sustain the progress is necessary, but it may not be an all-or-nothing Freedom Day.

“I have a problem with the concept of Freedom Day. I think this could be done more gradually, but obviously these are decisions that are having to be made during the course of discussions today. There are so many things that need to be taken into account.”

MMR Sian Griffiths
Professor Sian Griffiths co-chaired the Hong Kong inquiry into the 2003 Sars outbreak (Johnny Green/PA)

Prof Griffiths, who co-chaired the Hong Kong inquiry into the 2003 Sars outbreak, said the pandemic will change the way people live regardless of Government advice and rules.

“Post-Sars we found many more people wearing masks more often. That may be something that the public adopts – from the public, not just from the rules and regulations of the Government,” she said.

“Maybe we should be wearing masks on public transport. Anywhere where you’re in a closed environment.

“This is a virus that transmits very quickly if you’re in close contact with somebody, so you may want to keep your windows open more often, ensure you have ventilation, keep some social distancing.”

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