The former Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) adviser believes the summer will see few restrictions in place thanks to the vaccination programme. But he warned there is a chance a new variant of the virus could derail the UK’s jab programme.
Prof Ferguson indicated falling rates of infection and the success of the UK’s vaccine programme will help drive coronavirus cases down to “very low levels” by the summer.
But the former SAGE member warned a mutant strain of the virus could derail this – and hinted at the need for a “booster vaccine”.
He said: “It is highly likely that we will have driven Covid down to very low levels of case numbers, and we can begin enjoying summer.
“We will still need to monitor things very carefully and there has yet to be a proper discussion about what we do in autumn.
“Certainly, I think it is highly likely we will have to roll out a booster vaccine to protect against possible new variants.”
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Speaking to the Observer, Prof Ferguson suggested there was a 20 percent chance a new variant resistant to vaccine antibodies could see cases rise again.
However, he said a lockdown-free summer looks “promising”, and believes Boris Johnson’s Government has learnt from previous spikes from coronavirus.
He added: “I think the Government listened to what we had to say and have learned lessons from the past.
“Certainly, there’s no appetite to end up in a situation where they’re forced to lock down again.”
However, Tory MPs and industry leaders have urged the Prime Minister to ease restrictions faster than the lockdown roadmap suggests due to the success of the vaccine programme.
Senior Tories have suggested “dozens” of MPs will vote against, or abstain, when voting on both extending the Coronavirus Act, which expires on March 25, and on other lockdown measures, which expire on March 31.
Mark Harper, chairman of anti-lockdown Coronavirus Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, told The Telegraph: “Sticking rigidly to a set of dates based on now outdated, overly pessimistic modelling would be a mistake.”
Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive, also urged Mr Johnson to end the “heart-breaking” restrictions on foreign travel as cases fall and the vaccine rollout continues.
It comes as the Prime Minister insists the UK will ”beat Covid” in the “coming months”.
Speaking to the Scottish Conservative conference yesterday, he said: “Yes – in the coming months we will beat Covid – we will vaccinate everyone in our country and we will be able to remove restrictions.
“In the not too distant future, we will be able to reopen businesses, see friends in each other’s houses and hold loved ones.
“And we then face the task of building back better across the whole of the United Kingdom.”
Yesterday saw another 4,618 cases and 52 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, marking the lowest number of deaths since October 12.
In total, the UK has recorded 4,258,438 cases and 125,516 deaths from coronavirus.
The UK has also administered 25,781,120 doses of coronavirus vaccine as of yesterday, with 24,196,211 being first doses.
Under the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, the “rule of six” for outdoor gatherings and organised sport will be reintroduced by March 29 at the earliest.