UK ‘in very uncertain phase of the virus’, warns chief scientific adviser

Patrick Vallance warns nation must be ready for COVID Plan B

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The Government’s chief scientific adviser, inset, warned there was “considerable uncertainty” about what will happen this winter and much depends on the degree of immunity in the population and our behaviour. He said: “Nobody is really clear which direction this is going in.” The only things that were clear about the virus spread were “the two big variables”.

He explained: “One is waning immunity. So if immunity wanes faster than expected, you’ll see a bigger increase, and that’s why it’s so important to get booster shots.

“The second is the behavioural change – how quickly we return to pre-pandemic behaviours.”

And he warned the UK should be ready to bring in Plan B – a package of measures drawn up by the Government which would include mandatory face masks in certain settings and advice on working from home.

He said: “I think you have to absolutely be prepared.” Despite the huge success of Britain’s vaccine programme, the booster rollout and discovery of new antiviral treatments, Sir Patrick said he thought we would still have “a pretty difficult winter”.

Sir Patrick said most mathematical models, used to predict possible future trajectories of the pandemic, suggested there would not be a big spike this winter as seen in previous waves.

Cases are instead expected to remain “fairly flat, but at a very high level at the moment”. He added: “So the high level remains a concern and from a high level you can go up quite quickly.” Sir Patrick agreed that there was a degree of immunity building up among children “which will of course limit the virus spread”.

A further 165 people have died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 140,206. The Office for National Statistics said Covid was mentioned on 165,000 death certificates.

As of yesterday, there had been a further 39,842 confirmed cases.

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