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Britain eases coronavirus curbs but experts warn that it's too early

This article is more than 12 months old

LONDON: Senior advisers to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government warned it is too early to lift the lockdown as Britain further relaxes coronavirus restrictions today.

As people revelled in soaring temperatures by flocking to beaches and parks, several members of the government's own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Saturday told ministers they risked a second wave of infection.

One - epidemiologist John Edmunds - said the move was "a political decision".

Another prominent scientist, Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and also a member of Sage, warned explicitly on Twitter that the government was wrong on its timing.

"Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England," wrote Sir Farrar.

"TTI (test, trace and isolate) has to be in place, fully working, capable (of) dealing (with) any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results & infection rates have to be lower."

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said he shared other scientists' "deep concern".

"I share with all my scientific colleagues, or virtually all my scientific colleagues, a deep concern that we need to go with great caution," he told the BBC.

Britain has more than 272,800 cases.

From today, the government will begin easing lockdown rules imposed in March and partially reopen schools in England and allow up to six people from different households to meet outside.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab yesterday defended the government's "careful" loosening of the coronavirus lockdown, saying it was the "right step to be taking at this moment in time".

BALANCE THE NEED

With Britain experiencing one of the world's highest death rates from Covid-19, the government says it is easing the stringent lockdown "cautiously" to balance the need to restart the economy but also to try to prevent another increase in the number of infections.

"We are confident this is the right step to be taking at this moment in time," Mr Raab told Sky News.

"We are taking those steps very carefully, based on the science but also based on our ability now to monitor the virus."

Official figures on Saturday showed the death toll stands at 38,376, an increase of 215 since Friday. - AFP, REUTERS

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