GOVERNMENT advisers in England have voiced concern over Boris Johnson’s further easing of lockdown measures, warning they could easily lead to a second wave of Covid-19 cases.

Professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine John Edmunds, who attends Sage – the scientific advisory group on emergencies – said we “cannot relax our guard by very much at all”.

There are still 8000 new cases every day in England without including people with Covid-19 in hospitals and care home. Edmunds said that in comparison to other countries “it’s a very high level of incidence”. The World Health Organisation believes it could be the fifth highest in the world.

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“The issue is, clearly there’s a need to try and get the economy restarted and people back to their jobs and so on, and also there’s a social and a mental health need to allow people to meet with their friends and families,” he said.

“I think many of us would prefer to see the incidence driven down to lower levels because that then means that we have fewer cases occurring before we relax the measures.

“I think at the moment, with relatively high incidence and relaxing the measures and also with an untested track and trace system, I think we are taking some risk here.”

His warning won backing from another Sage attendee, Jeremy Farrar, who tweeted: “Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. Agree with John & clear science advice. TTI [test, trace and isolate] has to be in place, fully working, capable [of dealing with] any surge immediately.”

However Edmunds added it is for ministers to make decisions on these matters, and health has to be set against the wider impact of the lockdown across society and the economy.

“That’s clearly a political decision. It’s not a scientific decision.”

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, and also a member of the Sage modelling group, added there is little chance of getting rid of Covid-19.

He explained: “That was the World Health Organisation’s strategy in the early stages of this pandemic. That’s a strategy they only formally abandoned a few weeks ago. And given that yesterday saw the highest number of cases reported globally ever, global eradication doesn’t look like happening any time soon.”

Woolhouse added that our relationship with Covid-19 may turn out to be a “lifelong” one, and said a second wave “really is a clear and present danger”.

However a “possible new normal” could include intensive surveillance, large-scale screening, effective contract tracing, isolation of cases, quarantine for international arrivals and some residual physical distancing.