Covid is 'here to stay', expert warns amid claims UK is moving out of pandemic

The UK moving away from a pandemic situation does not mean the virus is going away, an expert has warned.

The country’s vaccination programme has reduced infections by up to 90%, new research shows.

This has helped the nation move ‘from a pandemic to an endemic situation’, Oxford professor Sarah Walker told The Telegraph. 

But today Ms Walker, who is also the chief investigator for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey, explained that being in an endemic means we will have to learn to live with the disease. 

She told Good Morning Britain: ‘What “endemic” means, at least in much of my infectious diseases world, is that something is here to stay. 

‘“Pandemic” means it’s in every country across the world all the time, “endemic” means it’s really around and it’s there but it’s always going to have the potential to come back.’ 

Her comments came after scientists found that one dose of the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab brings symptomatic infections down by 74% and asymptomatic infections down by 57%. 

Two doses brought symptomatic cases down by 90% and asymptomatic cases down by 70%. 

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The promising figures were released on Thursday in a joint study from Oxford University, the ONS and the Department of Health. 

Researchers looked at 373,402 throat swabs taken between December 1 last year and April 3 to conclude their data.

Ms Walker said she is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the vaccine programme’s ability to ‘control the virus long-term’. 

‘Without vaccines, I don’t think getting close to zero is really feasible in the situation now in the UK where we’re effectively endemic, we’ve moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation,’ she said. 

It comes as ONS statistics show that coronavirus was no longer the leading cause of death in the UK in March, for the first time since October. 

It is now the third biggest killer in the country, behind dementia and heart disease. 

Government advisers received a study this week showing that out of the 74,405 coronavirus patients admitted to hospital between last September and this March, just 32 of them had been jabbed.

Scientists said the findings show how ‘well’ vaccinating people is working at reducing hospitalisations.

The immunisation programme started taking off in January when the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was given the green light.

The deadliest day of the pandemic was just over three months ago, on January 20, when 1,296 people died within 28 days of testing positive for the disease. 

On April 22 there were 18 coronavirus fatalities, down from 64 deaths a month before. 

There were 359,829 people in hospital with coronavirus on January 18. This has dropped dramatically to 1,915 as of April 20.

These figures appear to show that easing lockdown has been safe so far. 

The next set of restrictions to lift is likely to be on May 17 when people can mix indoor, and hospitality can serve inside along with the opening of theatres and other entertainment venues.

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