| 24 May 2024, Friday |

Christmas may be difficult as COVID not over, England’s deputy medical officer says

The COVID-19 epidemic is not ended, so Christmas may be difficult, England’s deputy chief medical officer cautioned on Wednesday, encouraging people to exercise caution and seek booster doses.

On Tuesday, the United Kingdom reported 293 deaths from COVID-19, the highest daily total since March, and there have been roughly 40,000 new cases per day on average in recent weeks.

In July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson eased restrictions in England, and he has stated that instead of enforcing masks or lockdowns, he expects to deal with COVID this winter by relying on vaccinations.

“Too many people believe that this pandemic is now over. I personally feel there are some hard months to come in the winter and it is not over,” Jonathan Van-Tam told BBC TV, adding that behavior and the uptake of booster shots would determine how tough winter would be.

“Christmas and indeed all of the darker winter months are potentially going to be problematic.”

Johnson has cited Britain’s success in the initial vaccination rollout as he lifted restrictions, but a slower rollout of boosters means that for many vulnerable people, immunity could be waning.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has said that taking action now could reduce the need for tougher measures later.

Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, said he had stepped down from SAGE to focus on his work at the health charity, but added the situation was still worrying.

“The Covid-19 crisis is a long way from over,” he said in a statement.

“The high levels of transmission seen in the UK remain concerning, but I stepped down as a participant of SAGE knowing ministers had been provided with most of the key science advice needed over the winter months.”

  • Reuters