LONDON — The U.K. will not be back to normality by Christmas, with the coronavirus set to be around for “decades” to come, Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies member and director of the Wellcome Trust Jeremy Farrar told MPs on Tuesday.
This is contrary to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assertion that the country would be able to return to normality by Christmas.
“Things will not be done by Christmas,” said Farrar, while addressing the House of Commons health and social care committee. “Even actually if we have a vaccine or a very good treatment, humanity will still be living with the virus for many, many years to come.”
John Bell, Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, went further, saying that the “reality is that this virus will be with us forever.” “It is going to come and go,” he said.
Criticisms of the U.K. government’s delay in implementing lockdown following advice SAGE have expounded in recent weeks, with Farrar admitting that the lockdown was “too late.”
However, Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, defended the delay, saying it was “no more than you would reasonably expect for what are really very difficult things to operationalize and decide.”
Farrar also admitted that it was a “mistake” to move from community testing to focusing on hospital patients. Pointing to time in January and February, Farrar said, “I think there was not enough urgency… I regret that SAGE wasn’t more blunt in its advice,” he said. “But it didn’t have a job in holding people to account.”
Also defending the move away from community testing early on in the epidemic, Whitty said that this decision was “entirely practical” given the capacity that the U.K. had.