A member of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has warned that a return to normality is “a long way off”.
In an apparent contradiction of prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that the country could return to pre-lockdown state by Christmas, Professor John Edmund, said: “unfortunately I think it is quite a long way away.”
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Edmund said: “If what you mean by normality is what we used to do until February and the middle of March this year – go to work normally, travel on the buses and trains, go on holiday without restrictions, meet friends, shake hands, hug each other and so on – that’s a long way off, unfortunately.
“We won’t be able to do that until we are immune to the virus, which means until we have a vaccine that is proven safe and effective. If we return to those sort of normal behaviours the virus will come back very fast.”
When asked by the presenter if he would hug his grandmother, Edmunds said no.
Shapps also said that employers must make sure workplaces are Covid-safe for employees to return to work.
“We absolutely expect and ask employers and employees to work sensibly together, there’s full employee protection in place,” he said. “The Heath and Safety Executive would certainly have something to say if they are not using all of the guidelines.
“How do we get people to feel comfortable? And of course, the ultimate answer to that is to continue fighting this virus, and make sure that the reproduction rate continues to stay low and continues to decline so the issue is effectively resolved through fighting the virus.”
Shapps also insisted the public transport had the capacity to handle greater usage, and said it was no longer just for key workers.
He said public transport was being used at about 20% of its normal rate, though it was not clear whether he was referring just to England or the UK as a whole.
“We are quite close to full capacity but the usage of public transport is way down,” he said.“We have been very careful to ask people not to flood back too quickly and they have not, and so we are seeing many cases of quite empty, for example, trains.”
“There’s more capacity there, you can now return. Anyone, not just key workers, can use public transport,” he added. “I would recommend trying to avoid the busier times of day, but as people return to work – and the Prime Minister asked employers and employees to look at doing that particularly from August 1 – the public transport is there.”
British transport secretary Grant Shapps has reiterated the prime minister’s message that is possible for the country to return to normality by Christmas.
He said Boris Johnson’s announcement would “sense of direction”.
“It’s giving people a road map, really, so we can give people some hope whilst planning for the worst as well,” he said. “We want to give people some sense of direction, because a lot of people are running businesses or rely on the Christmas period and need to know that if everything goes well that this is our intention.”
“But you can’t get away from the fact that the virus is still, in many ways, a bit of an unknown, and of course it depends how millions of people respond and how good and alert we are in terms of all the things we know, like washing your hands and for the time being keeping that distance of one metre plus.”
It comes after Johnson’s plan for further easing of restrictions in England was met with skepticism.
Thailand’s outgoing central bank governor, Veerathai Santiprabhob, has ruled out joining prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s cabinet, Reuters reports.
The country’s finance minister, deputy prime minister and two other ministers resigned on Thursday, and local media reported that Veerathai would be asked to join the cabinet to shore up the prime minister’s economic team.
But on Saturday, Veerathai said: “Given media reports that I was approached to join a new economic team, I already thanked the prime minister for his trust (in me) and told him earlier in the week that would not be able to take any posts.”
Prayuth said on Friday he had approached private bank executive Predee Daochai to join his cabinet, and previous central bank governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul to join his cabinet but Prasarn declined the invitation.
Hi everyone, I’m Molly Blackall, taking over the blog for the next few hours. I’ll be bringing you all the latest updates in the coronavirus pandemic from around the world.
If you spot something you think we should be reporting on in this blog, you can drop me a message on Twitter. Tips and pointers always appreciated – thanks in advance!
With that, I’ll be handing the blog over to my colleague Molly Blackall, who will keep you updated with the latest from the UK and Europe. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Matilda Boseley for her coverage earlier. Stay tuned.
Last night, EU leaders failed to agree on a stimulus plan to counter the coronavirus pandemic – but they will try again when talks resume today.
Officials said on Friday that wealthy northern states, led by the Netherlands, stood their ground on access to the recovery fund in the face of opposition from Germany, France, southern nations Italy and Spain, and eastern European states.
Talks will continue on Saturday morning.
And read this feature on the US’s upcoming “terrifying autumn”:
Second day of more than 70,000 cases in the US
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