UK’s chief scientist: Vaccine will not mean ending crushing COVID restrictions
LONDON, England, December 10, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientist in the U.K. government, has said masks may be required until “next winter” based on not knowing “yet how good all the vaccines are going to be at preventing the transmission of the virus.”
The announcement comes just a day after the U.K. commenced its nationwide rollout of the recently approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19. Margaret Keenan was the world’s first person to receive the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday morning.
It seems that this much heralded event will not spark the end of government restrictions and mask-donning guidelines, quelling the hopes and speculations of many.
Conservative M.P. and chairman of the COVID Recovery Group (CRG) Mark Harper spoke in the House of Commons yesterday, asking at what point the restrictions surrounding COVID-19 might come to an end in light of an available vaccine.
Harper stated that “it seems to me not right that we should keep every single restriction in place until we’ve rolled out the vaccine to the entire population,” and “[it] still remains [that] the onus is on the government to justify every restriction and the balance between the benefits of reducing COVID, the economic impact, and the non-COVID health arm.”
After having set out the above, Harper put the following question to the health secretary, Matt Hancock: “[can] I ask the government to set that detail out before the House is asked to take another decision on these restrictions in January?” The health secretary responded that he wants “to lift the restrictions as soon as is safely possible and the question of that judgment of how safely is one that we will have to monitor and debate in this House over the coming weeks and months.”
Pleased to have the opportunity to thank Gloucestershire’s superb local NHS team who started rolling out the vaccine today and ask @MattHancock to ensure we don’t keep restrictions in place for longer than absolutely necessary. pic.twitter.com/vY37h825qR— Mark Harper (@Mark_J_Harper) December 8, 2020
Earlier today, Vallance appeared alongside England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, to give evidence to a committee of M.P.s on the coronavirus outbreak. During the hearing, Whitty warned that, even with a vaccination program in place, only a “gradual retreat” from the harsh lockdown restrictions should be expected; otherwise, the results might be “disastrous.” Vallance added that the time for easing restrictions would be “a science-informed political decision,” and that complacency now regarding the guidelines would be the “biggest risk” regarding a surge in “cases.”
Any hope for returning to a fully open and functioning economy any time soon were well and truly quashed by Chris Whitty, who stated emphatically: “I want to be very clear: for the next three months we will not have sufficient protection. So the idea we can suddenly stop now because the vaccine’s here, would be really premature.”
Continuing, Whitty advised that even if 20 million people took the vaccine, “[t]hat will not produce population immunity even if it prevents transmission[.] ... [I]t will still leave a lot of people who could become ill with this, and could in some cases have serious outcomes.”
Speaking with the Huffington Post, Dr. Julian Tang, consultant virologist at the University of Leicester, added her voice to Vallance’s prediction about the need to wear masks long-term and Whitty’s statement of caution. She said, “[M]asking and social distancing may need to continue until everyone is vaccinated and has mounted a mature, effective immune response to the virus.”
The credibility of statements made by Vallance and Whitty about the science behind the restrictions has been called into question after Vallance was asked about pub curfews, which were supposedly enacted to help stop the spread of the virus. Noting that curfews “are not something you can model with any degree of accuracy,” Vallance admitted that the 10 P.M. curfew on pubs was a “policy decision around trying to reduce the potential of interactions.” He added that “[t]here’s no really hard evidence” that curfews reduce the risk of spreading disease.
Vallance placed blame on the hospitality sector for the transmission of COVID-19, but admitted that “we can’t give specific data on that and neither can anyone else around the world.”
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