‘Highest level of caution’ urged for easing of Covid rules

Dr Eleanor Gaunt warned that the UK is in a 'delicate situation'.

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A virologist at the University of Edinburgh has urged the “highest level of caution” as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Dr Eleanor Gaunt, an expert on respiratory viruses at the Roslin Institute, warned the UK is in a “delicate situation”, amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

It comes after Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch suggested that full crowds could be allowed to return to Scottish football stadiums from August 10.

Asked on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme whether the idea of 50,000 fans in a football stadium from that date ‘thrilled’ her, she said: “No, it doesn’t.

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“So, we’re seeing right now an increase in cases, not just like a linear increase in the number of cases, but they’re really rapidly rising and we don’t know what the consequences of that are going to be as yet.

“So we’re in a very delicate situation right now and we should be proceeding with the highest level of caution.”

She continued: “Right now, we need to be aware of what’s happening in hospitals. So, we’re seeing a small increase in the number of people that are hospitalised, it’s increasing something like 10% week-on-week.

“So, we just need to see whether we can bring that back under control and bring the number of cases back under control with the roll-out of the vaccination programme.

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“But, right now, we are not in a position of control and so we just need to press pause effectively and let the vaccination programme catch up with the number of cases and get the situation back under control.”

Asked what could happen if all restrictions were relaxed on August 9, she outlined the risks of the virus in a high pressure situation.

“The risks specific to the virus are long-Covid, we don’t understand that,” she told the BBC.

“Between one in ten and one in 12 people get long-Covid. We don’t know what that means in the long-term.

“We also don’t know other long-term consequences of virus infections, so neurological complications are a significant concern.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in children because when schools go back in September, they’re not going to be vaccinated and so we’re going to see this continued cycle of children having to come out of school, of parents having to come out of work to take care of their children who cannot go to school.

“And there’s also the risk of new variants and if we put the virus into a high pressure situation where it’s circulating in a partially vaccinated population, then there’s the risk that a variant emerges that’s able to evade vaccine-induced immunity.”