By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 19 February 2022 • 9:14
image: creative commons
Scientific advisers to the government have warned Boris Johnson not be gung-ho about his approach to the virus, saying that dropping Covid-19 isolation requirements in England could lead to a growth in the epidemic.
The advisers in a document published Friday they said that people’s behaviour is changing faster than at previous times in the coronavirus pandemic, and that dropping testing and isolation requirements would feed into that behaviour.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline his plans for living with COVID-19 on Monday, and has said that he aims to scrap the legal requirement to self-isolate for people who test positive for the coronavirus.
The government’s advisory pandemic modelling group SPI-M-O echoed that caution in easing the rules any further, saying: “While behaviour change following the lifting of restrictions has previously been gradual, a sudden change, such as an end to testing and isolation, has the scope to lead to a return to rapid epidemic growth.”
The University of Warwick estimates said that the combination of measures and behavioural change since before the pandemic, such as testing, self-isolation and mask wearing, were reducing transmission by around 20-45%.
The estimates indicate there is a potential for transmission to increase by around 25%-80% if the population were to return to pre-pandemic behaviour with no mitigations.
Despite Britain recording more than 160,000 deaths from COVID-19, Johnson has lifted lockdown restrictions as vaccination and the lower severity of the Omicron variant break the link between cases and deaths.
SPI-M-O said that waning immunity and new variants could act to increase or decrease transmission, and that the growth advantage of the BA.2 sub variant of Omicron could mean modelling underestimates the trajectory for hospitalisations.
In SPI-M-O’s central scenarios, which are not predictions, hospital admissions were not modelled to rise above their peak at the start of the year.
The general public may not agree that Dropping COVID-19 isolation in England is a bad thing with many wanting life to return to normal, with most believing that the epidemic is past its peak and is unlikely to experience further growth.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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