UEA expert in infectious diseases expects delay to 'Freedom Day'

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

UEA professor Paul Hunter expects a delay to 'Freedom Day' - Credit: Archant © 2013

A Norwich-based expert in infectious diseases expects so-called 'Freedom Day' to be delayed - but says the country must soon "takes its chances". 

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia (UEA), said he would "not be surprised" to see a deferral of either two or four weeks. 

June 21 was the government's intended date to lift all remaining Covid restrictions as part of its roadmap set out back in February. 

But the spread of the virus' Delta variant has left Boris Johnson considering a delay to combat rising case numbers. 

And Prof Hunter, who specialises in the transmission of emerging infectious diseases, believes a slight change of plan would represent a sensible decision. 

Prof Paul Hunter of the UEA's Norwich medical school. Photo: Bill Smith

UEA professor Paul Hunter expects a two or four-week delay to 'Freedom Day' - Credit: Archant © 2013

"Listening to the general mood of what ministers are saying, I suspect there will be a delay - maybe two weeks, maybe four," said Prof Hunter.

"It would not surprise me at all, to be honest, and it is difficult to argue against. 

Most Read

"In another four weeks you are looking at the start of the school holidays, when transmission will be lower than it is while children are in classrooms."

Christmas shoppers in face masks out in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The government is considering a delay to the June 21 'Freedom Day' - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Amid increasing concern over the Delta strain, new research from Public Health England has shown it is 60pc more transmissible than the Alpha/Kent strain. 

After one dose, vaccines were found to be 17pc less effective against the Delta variant than the Alpha, but there was only a small decline in efficacy after both jabs.

However, with the rollout continuing at impressive pace, Prof Hunter said there must come a point when life returns to normal. 

Derek Downs was given his first Covid-19 vaccination at the Corn Exchange in King's Lynn. Picture: I

Norfolk and Waveney has the country's best vaccination rate for giving out first doses - Credit: Ian Burt

"We know the vaccine works and, if you get infected after having both doses, you generally have a much milder illness," he added.

"If the stated objective is to reduce severe disease, the rollout has been successful.

"Covid is not going away. I have been saying for a year that our grandchildren's grandchildren will living with it, but it will not cause a great deal of severe disease.

"Ultimately there has to be a point where we say 'we have done as much as we can to protect people - we must release these restrictions and take our chances.' We are getting close to that point."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter