UK ‘unlikely to see catastrophic winter wave’ that requires Christmas COVID lockdown – SAGE adviser

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The UK is "unlikely" to experience a "catastrophic winter wave" of COVID cases that would require a Christmas lockdown similar to last year, a government adviser has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Emergencies (SAGE), said on Saturday that the UK is in "quite a different situation" to some European countries reintroducing measures.

"I think it is unlikely we will get anything close to what we had last year, that catastrophic winter wave," Mr Ferguson told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"We can't be complacent, but at the moment I don't think we'll be in a situation the Netherlands is coming into where they really do need to get on top of rising case numbers using social distancing."

The Imperial College London epidemiologist said that the booster jab rollout and high infection rates earlier this year mean the UK could have higher levels of COVID-19 immunity than elsewhere.

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In response to spiralling cases the Netherlands has announced a three-week part-lockdown, Austria is imposing restrictions on the unvaccinated, and officials are urging people to cancel large events in Germany.

Figures released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest levels of COVID in the community are falling – from one in 50 for the week to 30 October to one in 60 to 6 November.

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COVID 'storm clouds' gathering

Daily cases on Friday were down around 6.5% on average – at 42,308 – while virus-related deaths had also fallen by an average of 8.9%.

But despite the numbers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned high case rates in Europe could spread to the UK if those eligible do not take up their booster jabs.

"I'm seeing the storm clouds gathering over parts of the European continent and I've got to be absolutely frank with people, we've been here before and we remember what happened when a wave starts rolling in," he said on Friday.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, speaking by video link to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.

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Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, speaking to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee

"The UK has built up a huge amount of protection thanks to the vaccine rollout and people's amazing willingness to come forward and get jabbed.

"What I'm saying today is the urgency of getting that booster jab is more evident than ever."

Professor Ferguson claimed that modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests expanding boosters to younger age groups could help to "drive down transmission to low levels".

He would support the JCVI extending the rollout once the nine priority vulnerable groups have been offered their third doses.

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