‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson warned today the Indian ‘Delta’ variant could be 60 per cent more infectious than the Kent one as official data showed it’s also twice as likely to put patients in hospital.
A study published last night also suggested that the Pfizer vaccine works less well on the mutant Covid strain, with people given that jab producing fewer antibodies targeting the virus compared to other strains.
The senior SAGE modeller– dubbed Professor Lockdown for his terrifying death predictions in the first wave – said warned the emerging evidence about was not positive ‘in any respect’.
Public Health England for the first time last night confirmed that the new variant was dominant in the UK, replacing the Kent version. And Britain’s daily infections also rose above 5,000 yesterday for the first time since the country was still in lockdown in late March, with cases of the Indian variant doubling every nine days.
Asked about whether the new evidence would put England’s June 21 ‘Freedom Day’ in jeopardy, Professor Ferguson said the data ‘is pointing in a more negative direction than it was last week.’
He told Radio 4 Today: ‘It points towards the direction of being cautious. I think balancing, clearly, people’s desire – and there clearly is a built-up desire to get back to normal – against the potential risk is a very difficult judgment call.’
But former Tory Chief Whip Mark Harper challenged the Prime Minister to push ahead with the final unlocking to prove Dominic Cummings wrong and show his Government is not an out-of-control ‘shopping trolley’. Mr Harper used the astonishing criticism levelled at Boris Johnson by his former top aide to put pressure on the PM not to delay.
Ministers remain tight-lipped about whether social distancing will be allowed to end on June 21 as planned, but Matt Hancock said yesterday it was a ‘good sign’ that vaccinated people were making up only a minority of hospital admissions.
Read more: You don’t say … Pfizer vaccine ‘works less well against Indian variant’: Vaccine ‘produces fewer antibodies against Covid Delta than other strains increasing likelihood an autumn booster will be needed’, study finds