Professor Neil Ferguson argued that the South African variant of Covid may pose a greater risk to the UK than the Kent variant. While speaking on the Today Programme with host Mishal Husain he highlighted that France and other European nations were seeing massive spikes in cases. He also warned that easing restrictions would come with risks of new cases so Boris Johnson must consider more precautions.
He said: “Perhaps more concern for the UK though is that some countries are notably seeing a significant fraction, 5-10% of cases, of the South African variant.
“When infection levels go up in France, 30,000 cases a day, that implies there are at least 1,500-2,000 cases a day of the South African variant.
“That is the variant we really do want to keep out of the UK.”
The Today Programme host then questioned how the UK could keep the South African variant at bay.
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Professor Ferguson outlined some of the dangers and admitted it could not be prevented indefinitely.
He added trade with France was likely to continue despite their surge in Covid cases.
Professor Ferguson replied: “As I say we can never really completely keep it at bay but I think there are importing decision coming up.
“Its always a balancing act for the Government with how much we relax measures.
“Those are policy decisions but I am just raising the issue.
“We are doing so well with the vaccination campaign that we are driving down deaths at a faster rate than I thought was ever possible.
“Opening up poses risk, particularly if there are variants around that can partially escape the vaccine.”