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Coronavirus: UK ‘on knife edge’ ahead of lockdown easing, scientist warns

The UK remains “on a knife edge” and must act “sensibly” over the summer months to stop a second wave of coronavirus, a scientist has warned.

Sir Jeremy Farrar said he is “worried” about a surge in cases ahead of pubs and restaurants reopening next month.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said people have to be “conscientious” about the risk of a second wave.

She said the city of Leicester could face a localised lockdown after a rise in cases.

Sir Jeremy, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and director of the Wellcome Trust, has warned there could be a “very nasty rebound” of the virus in the winter.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’re on a knife edge, it’s very precarious the situation, particularly in England at the moment, and I would anticipate we would see an increase in new cases over the coming weeks.”

The warning comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major easing of England’s lockdown restrictions, to help to reopen the economy. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and many other businesses will welcome back customers from 4 July.

Each UK nation’s lockdown measures differ, including varying rules on the reopening of food and drink outlets.
In Scotland, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants will be allowed to reopen from 6 July, and indoor areas can be used from 15 July. In Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants can open from 3 July.

The Welsh government has promised talks with the hospitality sector about a “potential phased” reopening, but no dates have yet been given.

Asked about the concerns raised by Sir Jeremy, the home secretary told the BBC that “nothing would be more damaging for our country and for our economy” than a second spike in virus cases, adding that the government’s plans to ease measures were “pragmatic and responsible”.

Earlier, the PM told the Mail on Sunday that if the virus was a “lightning flash”, the UK is about to have the “thunderclap of economic consequences”.

Mr Johnson made the comment as he set out his plans for a post-lockdown economic recovery – which will include a new taskforce to look at fast-tracking the building of hospitals, schools and roads.