'Bulk of Covid pandemic will be behind us' by late September, says expert

The UK will have put the “bulk of the pandemic behind us” by the autumn, one of the architects of lockdown has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson said the effect of the vaccine had fundamentally changed the picture and offered an optimistic prediction for the battle with the virus.

The Imperial College expert, who played a key role in the first lockdown, said there could still be a surge in cases in the autumn when schools return but the numbers of people dying or getting seriously ill had been slashed.

He told the Today programme: “We’re not completely out of the woods but the equation has fundamentally changed.

“The effect of the vaccines has been huge in reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death.

“I think, I’m positive by late September/October we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, was one of the architects of the first lockdown
Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, was one of the architects of the first lockdown

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“We’ll still have Covid with us, we’ll still have people dying from Covid, but we will put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”

It comes as the number of Covid-19 cases dropped for the sixth day in a row, with 24,950 cases on Monday compared to 46,558 reported on July 20.

However hospital admissions have risen, with a total of 5,055 patients in hospital in England on Monday.

This is up 33% from the previous week and the highest since March 18, but still well below levels seen in the second wave of the pandemic.

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Prof Ferguson, who is a member of the Government’s SAGE advisors, said it is still “too early to tell” what the effect would be of lifting restrictions on July 19.

He had warned it was “almost inevitable” that moving to Step 4 of the roadmap could lead to 100,000 daily cases – but said he was happy to be proved wrong.

Prof Ferguson said: “We won’t see for several more weeks what the effect of the unlocking is.

“We need to remain cautious, especially with the potential increase in contact rates again as the weather becomes less fine and schools return.”

Downing Street has struck a cautious note on the dip in cases, with the PM’s spokesman warning the UK is “not out of the woods yet”.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse suggested the school holidays could be playing a role in in the fall in cases but there was an “interesting cocktail of effects” on the virus.

He added: “Six days of drop is great, let’s hope it continues, but we are waiting to see what happens over the next few days.”



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