Have your say: Should social distancing be abolished in June as England's lockdown ends?

Ross McGuinness
·3 min read
 A view of a Social Distancing sign on Regent Street.
England is set to enforce a new tier system once the lockdown ends on 2 December. (Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A group of scientists want social distancing to be abolished in June. (PA)

A group of scientists has called on the government to abolish social distancing in June.

Under England’s coronavirus lockdown-easing roadmap, all legal limits on social contact are set to be removed no earlier than 21 June.

But an open letter signed by 22 scientists and academics, published in The Telegraph, called for social distancing to be scrapped for good in June and urged MPs to let people “take back control of their own lives”.

The letter said the UK’s COVID-vaccine rollout has reduced the risk of death by 98% and hospitalisations by more than 80%.

It read: “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true.

“We need to give more weight to the data on the actual success of the vaccines and less to theoretical risks of vaccine escape and/or surge in a largely vaccinated population."

Signatories of the letter included Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, and Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, also signed the letter.

One of the signatories is cancer doctor Professor Angus Dalgleish, who called for COVID-19 restrictions to be eased “immediately”, saying tens of thousands of cancer patients are worse off because of the pandemic.

He said he does “not see any reason” to wait until 21 June as set out in the government’s roadmap.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday: “I would like to see the restrictions lifted immediately.

“Every day we have these lockdowns there is more businesses going bust, there are more people whose lives have been ruined because of this lockdown.

Waiters serve people eating and drinking at outside tables on Saturday evening in Soho, central London, following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Picture date: Saturday April 24, 2021.
Waiters serve people eating and drinking on Saturday evening in Soho, central London. (PA)

“In my own professional capacity, we have people who’ve struggled and carried on with symptoms of cancer, too worried to come in to the hospital to get treatment, and now it’s progressed further and their outlook is even worse.”

But Devi Sridhar, a public health professor at the University of Edinburgh, told the programme: “We still have a lot of unvaccinated 40-year-olds, 30-year-olds – these are people who are still at risk of serious illness.

“I find it astonishing that, while there’s anti-lockdown protests in Britain, we’re seeing across the world absolute carnage in terms of lives being lost outside hospitals because people can’t get care.”

“People want to go to places and do want to enjoy their lives, but they want to do it safely because I think in general the public understands this is such a serious virus and you don’t want to acquire it at any age.”

Earlier this month, scientists warned that reopening the UK too quickly could spur a third COVID-19 wave.

A report last week by PA Media claimed government advisers believe the public should be able to ditch face masks this summer as the impact of the vaccine rollout is felt.

It comes as government figures revealed that more than half of the UK population has received a first dose of a COVID vaccine.

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