Chris Whitty ‘very unhappy’ with Boris Johnson after Whitehall erupted in Covid row

Chris Whitty issues warning over pandemic in 2018

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The success of the vaccine rollout in the UK is breeding optimism that the pandemic can be defeated soon. More than 30 million people have now received a vaccine and the first Moderna jabs are due to arrive in the UK by late April. It is the third vaccine of seven that the UK has put in an order for – and it is lined up to receive 17 million doses. However, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty has warned against complacency as he and his colleagues form the UK’s roadmap out of lockd

Modelling considered by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has suggested that even under the most optimistic set of assumptions, at least a further 30,000 COVID-19 deaths could occur.

Prof Whitty maintained that five week gaps are needed between each step to loosen lockdown, adding earlier this month: “All the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge and that will find the people who either have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked.

“Some of them will end up in hospital and sadly some of them will go on to die.”

Prof Whitty reportedly clashed with the Prime Minister in February over the easing of lockdown.

Mr Johnson’s hopes to reopen schools quickly were met with resistance from Prof Whitty, according to The Guardian’s sources.

He was said to be “very unhappy” with the idea of all 10 million children and staff returning to schools in England on March 8, although the Government denied this and insisted that Prof Whitty was not opposed to any of the options being discussed.

The source added: “Number 10 will come up with a formulation of words that Whitty can live with.”

Schools were opened on March 8, with all students in the UK returning to classrooms.

Secondary school and college students have been asked to wear face coverings in classrooms where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Education unions warned that greater testing of pupils and the wider use of face coverings “may not be enough” to cope with the increased risk of transmission as schools reopened.

Nine unions, representing school leaders, teachers and support staff, called for schools to be given flexibility to take local measures to strengthen the safety of students and staff.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said last week that face coverings should remain in secondary schools “until the science says that it’s safe to remove them”.

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He added: “We’re worried that with only two weeks’ data, or two and a bit weeks’ data, it’s not safe to make that decision right now and therefore to say remove them after Easter.”

Over 125,000 people in the UK have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, and there have been 4,341,736 lab-confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

The UK has recorded 56 more COVID-19 deaths and 4,040 new cases, Tuesday figures showed.

This was up from 23 deaths and 4,654 infections on Monday, but Tuesday statistics usually see a spike as weekend updates are added in.

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