When will the UK be Covid-free? Date country could be ‘more or less free’ of pandemic - according to Sage expert

Coronavirus restrictions have become a part of everyday life (Shutterstock)Coronavirus restrictions have become a part of everyday life (Shutterstock)
Coronavirus restrictions have become a part of everyday life (Shutterstock)
Professor John Edmunds warned some measures could remain ‘forever’

By the end of the year the UK should be “more or less free” of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a leading epidemiologist.

Independent adviser to the government Professor John Edmunds made the prediction as the March anniversary of the first national lockdown approaches.

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Despite restrictions becoming a part of everyday life, people have been wondering when the country will be Covid-free, especially as the vaccination programme progresses.

Here’s what epidemiologist Prof Edmunds predicted.

When could the UK be Covid-free?

With no definitive date for when lockdown restrictions could begin to be eased, it has been difficult to predict when things may go back to “normal”.

Yet Prof Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has said the country could see more freedom from the pandemic by the end of this year.

He told ITV that he thinks the country could be “more or less free” of the virus specifically by Christmas.

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However, the epidemiologist warned that some measures were likely to remain “probably forever”.

He said: “I think we will be more or less free of this by the end of this year… say Christmas.”

Will restrictions be eased gradually?

Prof Edmunds pointed to the risk of opening up the country again too quickly, highlighting the emergence of variants of the virus, including the new one identified in Bristol.

The epidemiologist continued: “We’ve identified these significant new variants that are out there and we need to be able to arm ourselves against them and we don’t have new vaccines that could potentially arm ourselves against these new variants yet.

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“I know that companies are working very hard on developing new vaccines in order to protect against these potential new variants that might affect us so I do think we need to be very cautious at the moment about travel abroad.”

The Bristol variant could “be able to reinfect people who have been previously infected or who have been previously vaccinated", so it would be "very dangerous" to let the virus rip, Prof Edmunds said.

He added: “I think we have to do everything very gradually and see how it goes.”

The Sage expert’s comments echoed those of Boris Johnson, who had previously warned the public that an exit out of lockdown would be phased rather than a great “open sesame”.

When will the roadmap out of lockdown be published?

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Lockdown restrictions were introduced for an initial period of seven weeks in England.

Boris Johnson promised that the measures would be reviewed during the week commencing 15 February.

It is hoped that the government will have a clearer idea of the effectiveness of lockdown restrictions by this date.

It is also hoped that by this stage the 15 million most vulnerable people in the country will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine.

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Following the review, a lockdown exit roadmap is to be published in the week commencing 22 February.

Speaking on 3 February the prime minister said: “On February the 22nd, we will be setting out in as much detail as we can about where we see the dates, what the timetable could be, the earliest dates by which we want to do what - you remember what we did last year - setting out a route map, we’ll do that again.”