BRITS could be allowed to meet friends and loved ones indoors from May and lockdown measures may be eased every three weeks from March 8, a Government scientific adviser said today.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose warnings about the potential Covid death toll led to the first lockdown in March, says brighter days are coming as the UK's daily infection and death toll continues to drop.
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The expert, who is nicknamed Professor Lockdown and is on the Government advisory body Nervtag, said areas with the lowest rates of Covid could go into Tier 1-style restrictions by May.
And at the very least, he thinks the whole of England could be under Tier 2-like restrictions.
It comes as:
- Social distancing and mask-wearing could be policy until autumn, experts say
- Rishi Sunak is considering a £6bn "stealth" tax raid by freezing personal income allowances in next month's Budget, it's claimed
- Families are warned they'll face £6,400 fines for flouting lockdown with days out during half-term
- Countries could be added to the hotel quarantine 'red list' with just hours' notice
- The UK has avoided a double-dip recession – but the economy shark at the fastest rate for hundreds of years during the pandemic
Under the lowest tier, a maximum of six people could meet indoors and outdoors, while pubs were open without punters needing to buy meals and non-essential shops could keep doors open.
In Tier 2, household mixing indoors was banned, but groups of six could meet outside. Pubs and bars were ordered to close unless they could serve food.
In an interview on a Politico podcast, Prof Ferguson said: "By May time, it's realistic to be in something akin to Tier 2.
"Maybe with areas of very low incidence by that time, we could move to Tier 1 type measures, completely relaxing and having something akin to where we were in August."
However, he cautioned that the road out of tough measures will be a "bumpy" and slow one – and it could be next year before all restrictions are finally gone.
Up to 90 per cent of over 50s must be vaccinated before society can begin its long return to normality, he said.
And every adult must have had the jab for life to go on as it was before.
"We're in a better place than I might have anticipated a month ago," he said.
"Lockdown has driven down cases quite fast – in a month's time, we might have some bandwidth to reopen schools, or at least primary schools."
The academic spoke after it was reported this morning that mask wearing and social distancing could be in place for many months to come.
Professor Ferguson still sits on the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group despite quitting his position on SAGE after he was caught breaking lockdown to visit a lover.
Plans being considered by ministers to reduce the spread of Covid and plot a route out of lockdown include the assumption that people will wear face masks and stay at least a metre apart from each other until the autumn.
It means many will go without hugging grandparents until next year.
“The thinking is that social distancing will need to be in place for a long time to come,” a Whitehall source told The Times.
“It has repercussions for the scale of any reopening. Restaurants, pubs and offices will all need to be Covid-secure.”
Prof Ferguson said it's his "fervent hope" that "certainly by this time next year" the UK will be "basically back to normal".
"Whether we maintain bits of them will partly be political decision that really depend on the situation in other areas of the world but there's a lot of uncertainty around that," he said.
It comes as the UK's jabs roll-out continues apace. Some 13.5million Brits have now received at least one vaccination.
The Sun exclusively reported that the hated 10pm curfew won't return when pubs finally do reopen in May – and boozers can hand out takeaway pints from April.
Meanwhile, a symptom-tracking app predicts that cases will tumble to a total of 85,000 symptomatic infections on the day schools are set to open again.
The ZOE Covid-19 Symptom Study said there will be 3,373 cases a day by March 8.
That's the equivalent of 1 in 780 Britons suffering an infection with the virus.
The top epidemiologist behind the project said these levels would 'allow' children to return to school, and for people to start meeting friends and family again outdoors.
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