Three scientists advising the U.K. government on the coronavirus have warned the decision to relax lockdown restrictions from Monday presents a risk to health.
Easing lockdown restrictions without an effective contact tracing program in place is “rather dangerous,” said John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advising the government.
Primary schools will reopen and some retail premises can resume business from Monday, while people will be allowed to meet up to six friends outdoors.
The government launched a tracing system on Thursday, but “we can’t be sure that that is working effectively yet,” Edmunds told Sky News.
Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and also a member of SAGE, tweeted his support for Edmunds’ concerns and wrote, “Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England.”
The U.K. recorded an additional 324 deaths from COVID-19 according to the latest daily figures, with 2,095 new daily cases. The total death toll stood at 38,161 people.
Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), another advisory group, told BBC Radio 4 that “returning to a situation where we’ve lost control again is far worse than a week or two of social measures.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, from the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter Saturday that he’s “deeply concerned” that the U.K. is “rushing too fast to lift lockdown measures,” urging Londoners “to act with caution.” Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he considers this “a dangerous moment.”
A Number 10 spokesperson told the BBC that the government had “at all times been informed by the data and evidence,” and that the decision to loosen restrictions had been carefully designed “so that we can ease the burdens of lockdown” while keeping transmission of the virus under control.