EASING coronavirus restrictions too quickly could push Brits into a fourth national lockdown, one expert has warned.
Brits are currently living through a third national lockdown which had to be put in place after tier restrictions were unable to curb a rise in infections thought to have been caused by the Kent variant.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to reveal his roadmap out of lockdown on February 22 with schools opening once more on March 8.
But one scientist has warned that we need to continue to take a cautious approach and suggested that the "new normal" could include social distancing and the use of face masks.
Professor Neil Ferguson, dubbed Professor Lockdown after his advice lead Mr Johnson to the first national lockdown in March last year today warned that even with vaccines being rolled out – there are still threats we need to watching out for.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme Prof Ferguson warned that taking bigger risks now in terms of easing restrictions could cause more issues down the line.
He said: "The downside of taking bigger risks is you risk having to lockdown again which is even more disruptive economically and socially."
Prof Ferguson did however agree with the cautious approach the government is currently taking in easing restrictions and said it would be a matter of relaxing one thing and seeing what the impact is and then relaxing again.
"It may well still be that at the end of May we are in a very different country than we are in today", he added.
Asked whether a "different country" would mean back to normal or Britain with some restrictions in place such as social distancing and face masks he said: "We will still have rules in place but society will be a lot more normal, that is if things pan out the way we think they will and as the current data suggests they will.
"There are threats out there, we don’t know for instance quite how effective the vaccines are, how long immunity will last and there is the threat of variants.
"We have to be driven by the data and the trends we see."
Data published by Public Health England (PHE) suggests that cases have fallen in 99 per cent of areas, while data released by the experts at the ZOE Symptom Tracker app today states that since January, infections have dropped by 80 per cent.
Prof Ferguson said the the two most important factors when it comes to easing restrictions is how quickly infection levels are declining and in particular how quickly hospitalisations and deaths are declining.
He added: "Second is the emerging picture around the real world effectiveness of the vaccines as they are being rolled out -and both are looking promising at the moment.
"So the trade off we have is between how quickly can we relax and how quickly we can immunise and protect the population and there are still risks at the moment in relaxing too quickly when we don’t have enough immunity in the population.
"Bearing in mind that no vaccine will offer perfect protection."
So far in the UK over 16.4 million people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering, with over half a million having received their second.
Prof Ferguson said that while a lot of promsing data is coming out of Israel in relation to the Pfizer vaccine and its effectiveness – we still have a long way to go.
He added: "It’s still early days though, it's only been two three months since we have been vaccinating and it takes quite a long time to collect the data needed to really get a good handle on how effective the vaccines will be."
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