An Oxford University professor has warned that government ministers have been focusing on worst case scenarios in COVID-19 modelling and the UK is in serious risk of “talking ourselves into annual lockdowns.”
Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, said the UK government should trust people to manage their own risk rather than impose further lockdowns.
Heneghan, an epidemiologist and practising doctor, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme on Monday that the country is in a different place from last year, but all ministers see is the worst case scenario when looking at modelling.
“We are in deep, deep trouble of potentially talking ourselves into annual lockdowns,” he warned.
According to Heneghan, the number of people testing positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus has only gone up by about 50 percent in a week rather than doubling every day.
He said the number of patients that were admitted to hospital “hardly changed over a week” and on Sunday the number of deaths went down.
“If you focus on the information that matters, you come up with a very different scenario,” he said.
He argued that people should be treated like adults as they can be trusted to manage their own risks and moderate their behaviour accordingly.
The UK government had removed most of the country’s COVID-19 curbs in July, but it has tightened pandemic-related restrictions again following the detection of the Omicron variant.
Under the government’s “Plan B” measures, people have been asked to work from home if they can, vaccine passports have been introduced for large-scale events and nightclubs, and a mask mandate has been enforced for most indoor settings, including cinemas and theatres.
Over the weekend, members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies recommended more restrictions.
Downing Street did not deny reports that a number of ministers have pushed back against more curbs without more evidence of the impact the virus would have.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said on Monday that it was part of the job of ministers to scrutinise any advice they were given.
“We need to strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods. That is what we are focused on,” the spokesman said.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab refused to rule out the possibility that additional measures could be required before Christmas.
“I just can’t make hard, fast guarantees,” he told Sky News.
PA contributed to this report.