The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have suggested that easing lockdown restrictions could trigger a second surge of Covid-19 cases. Documents published on Friday, which detail a Sage meeting held on 5 May, warn that the phase four plan is “highly likely” to push the R rate above 1 which would mean an increase of infections.
The group propose that phase 4, which would begin around 15 August, would include all children going back to school in September, most people being back at work and most leisure facilities reopening.
The document read: “As things currently stand, Phase 4 of the modelled options is highly likely to push R above 1.
“This phase of the option involves more extensive relaxing of measures across a range of areas.”
On Thursday, the Chief Scientific Adviser and member of Sage, Sir Patrick Vallance stated at the daily press briefing that the R rate is currently somewhere between 0.7 and 0.9.
A second peak of coronavirus infections is “inevitable” according to Sage documents
Sage has suggested that easing lockdown restrictions could trigger a second surge of Covid-19 cases
The R value is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread.
If this number becomes higher than one, then the amount of cases will increase exponentially.
However, if the number is lower, the number of people infected will shrink and the virus will eventually peter out.
On Monday, the UK will enter phase 2 according to the government’s plans based on the Sage modelling.
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The documents from the Sage meeting reveal that for any further easing of lockdown restrictions to take place safety “very effective contact tracing is essential” for example with pubs and restaurants.
But the group warned that reopening businesses including hairdressers, nail bars and other “personal care services” could create infection hot spots like those seen in care homes.
The document sated: “People working in businesses involving close, sustained contact with many people, however, could have levels of infection as high as those seen in social care, as well as increasing transmission in the community.”
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The R value is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread
If the R value becomes higher than one, then the amount of cases will increase exponentially
This comes as a member of Sage warned on Friday that the UK Government is “taking some risk” by easing lockdown measures when the amount of new Covid-19 cases remains “relatively high”.
Professor John Edmunds who attends meetings of Sage, stated that many experts would “prefer” the number of Covid-19 infections to drop further before seeing measures like meeting up with family and friends introduced.
Speaking at a Science Media Centre briefing, he said: “If we had incidents at a lower level, even if the reproduction level (R value) went up a bit, we wouldn’t be in a position where we were overwhelming the health service.
“I think at the moment with relatively high incidents, relaxing the measures and with an untested track and trace system, I think we are taking some risk here.
“Even if that risk doesn’t play out and we keep the incidents flat, we’re keeping it flat at quite a high level.”
As part of the Government’s phase two recovery strategy, schools are allowed to reopen on Monday for reception, year 1 and year 6.
The next and third phase is planned for 4 July when hairdressers, pubs, hotels and cinemas could also get the green light to reopen.
On Monday the UK will enter phase 2 according to the government’s plans
Sage published research papers and records of their meetings in order to show their thinking behind the lockdown measures.
They begin with the first Covid-19 meeting held in 22 January to the most recent from 7 May.
Normally Sage publish their meeting records at the end of an emergency, however, the unique nature of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a drive for transparency.