Jonathan Van-Tam says Britain’s Covid crisis will be a ‘lot calmer’ after Easter… but gloomy scientist says we should prepare for up to EIGHT more years of misery
- England’s deputy chief medical officer gave an upbeat diagnosis today
- But he said this was dependent on the booster programme’s roll out
- Professor Tim Spector, however, said Covid outbreaks may last for eight years
Britain’s Covid crisis is set to become ‘a lot calmer’ after Easter, Jonathan Van-Tam predicted today — but other scientists warned it could drag on another eight years.
England’s deputy chief medical officer warned there will be some ‘twists and bumps’ along the way and admitted that the situation was becoming harder to forecast.
But he told a medical conference today: ‘I think, generally speaking, waters will be quite a lot calmer after Easter.’
Professor Van-Tam warned this was dependent on the successful roll out of the booster doses, which are being offered to all over-50s.
His words were in stark contrast to eminent epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector, who warned that it could take years to become a manageable, seasonal virus.
‘We need to be thinking in terms of time scales — it is not in months, it is not by next Christmas, it is a question as to whether it will be three years or eight years,’ he said.
It came as Britain’s daily coronavirus cases rose for the first time in over a week today but hospital and death rates continued to fall.
There were 42,408 new infections in the past 24 hours, according to the Government’s Covid dashboard, which marked a 14 per cent rise on last week.
Cases had been in freefall since late October — believed to be due to growing immunity in children — except for one blip on November 1, when they rose by around 9 per cent.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (left) said the Covid pandemic would likely be ‘a lot calmer’ by Easter. But Professor Tim Spector (right) who runs a Covid symptom study said it could take eight years before the virus finally fades into the background
Speaking at an annual Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicines conference, Professor Van-Tam said that he was asked hundreds of times each week about when the Covid crisis might come to an end.
He added: ‘My answer to that is I think we have to be very cautious at the moment.
All Britons should be offered a booster dose of the Covid vaccine, Professor Tim Spector has said today.
Currently the top-up jabs are being offered to over-50s who had their second jab at least six months ago.
But the top epidemiologist — who runs a study monitoring Covid — said the third dose should also be given to younger age groups once they have waited as long.
He told the Royal Society of Medicines’ Covid series: ‘We should extend the vaccination programme to include three shots.
‘We know that two only last properly for three or four months then start to fade.
‘But once they’ve got that third shot — and we see it in Israel — their immunity is better.’
He called on the Government to stop referring to the third dose as a booster, and instead call it ‘completing the course’.
He said: ‘Finish the course should be the message, not you’re getting a little bit more.’
‘The epidemiology [Covid situation] is rather uncertain, it could turn for the better, it could also turn for the worst.
‘And even if it turns for the better in the next couple of weeks, that’s a different question to will it stay for the better between now and the spring.’
He added: ‘I think we can expect some bumps and twists and turns, but I think right now it is hard to predict them.
‘I think how big those twists and turns and unsettling points will be will be very very contingent upon the continued success of the vaccine rollout and particularly the booster programme.
‘We are already seeing very very positive data from Israel in light of their booster programme.’
Professor Van-Tam also warned, however, that should a variant emerge that could escape vaccine-triggered immunity this would be a ‘major setback’ and derail the timeline.
Speaking today at a Royal Society of Medicines conference earlier in the day, Professor Spector was also asked when the pandemic might be over.
His assessment was more downbeat, drawing comparisons with the Spanish flu pandemic.
‘We need to be thinking in terms of time scales — it is not in months, it is not by next Christmas, it is a question as to whether it will be three years or eight years.
‘We are all hoping it will continue to mutate to get more transmissible but milder.
‘Hopefully, it’ll be fading out and it won’t be all bad for the next five to seven years.’
He added: ‘It will be just like having some sort of permanent flu outbreak that we have to deal with.’
The Spanish flu killed some 50million people globally, while Covid has been linked to 5million deaths so far.
Britain’s Covid cases have been trending downwards since the week before half-term — when scientists said enough immunity may have built up to curb transmission of the virus.
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