The UK Government’s so-called ‘freedom day’ was “somewhat naive” and England should copy Scotland in keeping some infection prevention measures in place on July 19, an expert has said.
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, feared a complete unlocking would lead to a large wave in coronavirus cases across the UK.
He told Times Radio: “What I have been concerned about for many months is that if the unlocking really is a big release… then there’s potential for a very large wave indeed.
“I was always concerned, and I’ve said so many times, that this idea that it would be a final ‘freedom day’ was, I have to say, somewhat naive.
“The public health expectation was that we would need additional measures to keep the rate of increase of cases under control.”
Prof Woolhouse added the insistence by the Government that unlocking would be irreversible “painted (them) into both a political and public health corner” should circumstances change.
“This is an unprecedented situation, it’s a new pandemic and flexibility is extremely important in the public health response,” he said.
Prof Woolhouse, who advises government in both Scotland and England, said he expected all countries to experience an “exit wave” of coronavirus when they came to unlock fully.
His comments come as Scotland prepares to move to level zero coronavirus restrictions on Monday, July 19.
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said ‘certain modifications’ would be added to the Scottish Government’s indicative plans.
Amongst the changes under level zero, hospitality venues will be permitted to stay open until midnight – extended from the current curfew of 10pm.
Up to eight people from four households will also be able to enter homes and stay overnight, whilst up to ten people from four households can meet in an indoor public place such as a bar or restaurant.
A move to return staff to workplaces however was delayed until Scotland moves beyond level zero.
August 9 has been set as an indicative date for when all main coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in Scotland, but ministers have set out an ongoing need for face masks and other basic measures to continue.