Relaxing lockdown is a risk because levels of the coronavirus are still “very high”, one of the government’s top science advisers says.
Prof John Edmunds said it was a “political decision” to lift lockdown and that “many” scientists would wait.
The warning comes as Sage, the group of scientists advising government, publish details of their confidential meetings.
One meeting on 23 April estimated there would be only 1,000 cases per day by mid-May.
Instead, estimates by the Office for National Statistics suggest there are currently 8,000 cases per day in England alone. Those figures don’t include cases in care homes or hospitals.
‘Little time for stringent measures’
“Many of us would prefer to see the incidence down to lower levels before we relax measures,” Prof Edmunds, from the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine, said.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a member of Sage, agreed that measures were being lifted too early, writing on Twitter that the newly-introduced NHS test and trace system needed to be “fully working” before measures were eased.
Newly-published Sage documents also warned of the dangers of having high numbers of cases.
They say this would “give little time to re-impose more stringent measures” if the infection rate (the R-number) started to increase.
Disease modellers feeding into Sage discussions said having high levels of the virus could allow restrictions to be eased as more people would develop immunity to the virus.
But that would “result in tens of thousands of direct deaths” and could not be achieved by autumn without intensive care units being overwhelmed.