Speaking on BBC Newsnight, two experts conceded that the way to effectively obliterate coronavirus was to observe other countries and how they handled the pandemic. This analysis would not only prevent new, foreign variants entering the UK, but also provide an insight into what measures helped curb the spread of the virus.
Newsnight host Emily Maitlis referenced Prime Minister Boris Johnson when asking whether “a cautious but irreversible path to freedom” meant the UK would “open and shut” repeatedly for the coming months.
Professor Melinda Mills, who is a member of SPI-B and provides behavioural science advice to Sage, said action was being taken in order to avoid a back and forth dynamic when it came to the coronavirus rules.
“I think that’s exactly what they’re trying to avoid, so if we look at what’s happened in other countries over the past year… we’ve seen, for example, in New Zealand they immediately acted swiftly, and shut their borders, they isolated cases and they eradicated it.
“I mean, we’ve learned from countries that acted swiftly, early, deeply, that you don’t have to have ‘open and shut’.
“And I think that’s what they’re trying to avoid and that’s just moving the goalpost, it’s just setting the goalpost there and just saying ‘we have to draw some lines and be strict’.
“There’s emerging variants, we have to understand how long immunity lasts for the different vaccines.
“So there’s a lot of things going on here.
“I think it’s just trying to avoid making all of these changes and just being clear.”
Mike Tildesley, from SPI-M, which supplies infectious disease modelling to Sage, weighed in on how Britain’s borders could realistically reopen in the future.
He said: “I totally appreciate the travel sector has had a very difficult last 12 months, and clearly new variants are always going to be an issue.”
Mr Tildesley added: “In the shorter term, and I think it’s very difficult to know what’s going to happen with international travel, but if we want to be able to reopen international travel, the Government are going to have to look at really strict testing at airports, also ensuring people adhere to isolation at home once they return…
“All of these things are going to have to be looked at and we maybe have to judge countries on a case-by-case basis of risk so we don’t bring new [Covid-19] variants into the country.”
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