Sheffield health expert warns Covid restrictions could return if scary new variants emerge

Coronavirus restrictions could have to be brought back after ‘Freedom Day’ if dangerous new variants emerge, warns a top Sheffield public health expert.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 2:43 pm

The Government is looking to end restrictions which which were brought to stem the spread of Covid 19 later this month, with July 19 having been proposed.

It has already delayed the move once, while it assessed how effective vaccines were against the new Delta variant.

Dr Andrew Lee Reader of Public Health at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research, says it is vital the Government is not pushed into a corner, and future variants of what is a changing virus could lead to ministers having to bring back measures like masks and social distancing in future.

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Sheffield Vaccination centre at Matthews Practice. Sheffield CCG pharmacist diluting the vaccine.

He said: “I think there is a lot of pressure and desire for ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19 – everyone is fed up with the pandemic and wants the restrictions lifted, and it would not surprise me if that happens.

"But we need to still remain vigilant as it is uncertain that the virus has run its course. We should not write it off. It’s still evolving. Look what happened after the Alpha variant arrived – we had a second wave. Now we are looking at another wave, through the Delta variant we found a few weeks ago.

"There are a few things we need to consider, like if a new virus variant is driving things, such as if it is resistant to vaccines, and that’s what would worry me. At this point in time the overall impact on death and hospitalisations is low and that is the good news. But we need to make sure that people get their vaccine doses to make sure that’s the case.

"But if we get a new variant that they don’t protect against, we may have to go back to tried and tested measures. There is still a lot unknown about the virus and its impact, and we don’t know how long vaccine immunity lasts. It’s only been around a year or so.

"Freedom Day is not necessarily Freedom Day forever.

"I think we may need to adjust expectations so that we don’t push the Government into a corner. We have got to see what happens.”