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16 April 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

UK will maintain “significant“ social distancing until vaccine available, says top government adviser

By Samuel Horti

The UK will have to keep “a significant level of social distancing” until a coronavirus vaccine is available, according to one of the government’s top scientific advisers.

Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London whose modelling has helped guide the government’s coronavirus strategy, told the BBC: “We will have to maintain some level of social distancing, a significant level of social distancing, probably indefinitely until we have a vaccine available.” His comments echo those of junior health minister Nadine Dorries, who last night said the UK can only “exit full lockdown” when a vaccine is available.

Ferguson said that easing lockdown measures after a three-week extension expected today would “require us to get on top of things like transmission rates in hospitals and care homes”, adding that the government would have to scale up testing and build a system to trace cases in the community. 

He also hinted the government was not as organised as he’d have hoped. “I’m reminded by the fact we had a Department for Brexit for Government – that was a major national emergency, as it were – and we’re faced with something which is, at the moment, even larger than Brexit and yet I don’t see quite the same evidence for that level of organisation.”

Asked about the commends, Health Secretary Matt Hancock simply said Ferguson “advises; he is not in government”.

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