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Top scientist Sir Jeremy Farrar quits SAGE over Britain’s ‘concerning’ Covid infection rates – saying ministers are ignoring advice, the pandemic is ‘a long way from over’ and warning vaccines alone will NOT be enough
- Sir Jeremy Farrar stepped down from government’s advisory group last month
- He has called for more mask wearing, continued testing and more ventilation
- But the government has not yet activated its ‘Plan B’ ahead of the winter months
A top scientist has quit the government’s SAGE committee over Britain’s ‘concerning’ Covid infection rates – saying ministers are ignoring advice and that the pandemic is ‘a long way from over’.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is also director of scientific charity, the Wellcome Trust, stepped down from the advisory group last month after warning vaccines alone will not be enough for the UK to fully overcome the virus.
The medical researcher had been the driving force behind a plan to battle which many predict will be a tricky winter, including continues testing, more ventilated areas and increased mask wearing, Sky News reports.
The government recently outlined the steps that could make up its ‘Plan B’ for tackling the virus – including mandatory face coverings, Covid passports for nightclubs and a renewed encouragement to work from home – but this has not been activated.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, who is also director of scientific charity, the Wellcome Trust, stepped down from the advisory group last month after warning vaccines alone will not be enough for the UK to fully overcome the virus
Sir Jeremy told Sky News: ‘The Covid crisis is a long way from over, with the global situation deeply troubling.
‘The high levels of transmission seen in the UK remain concerning, but I stepped down as a participant of SAGE knowing ministers had been provided with most of the key science advice needed over the winter months.
‘Throughout this crisis SAGE has provided vital evidence, and independent, expert, transparent advice to support the UK response, often under huge pressure.’
It comes as figures today revealed that the UK’s daily coronavirus cases have started to fall again after a brief blip yesterday — but hospital admissions and deaths continue to rise.
There were 33,865 new infections across the country in the past 24 hours, according to the Department of Health’s daily update, marking a 17.3 per cent fall on last Tuesday.
Covid cases were slightly inflated last week because of a recording issue in Wales, which means the true week-on-week decline will be less sharp. Daily infections in England dipped below 30,000 for the first time in four weeks today.
Infections had fallen for eight days in a row until yesterday, which was believed to be due to less testing during half-term. But there is growing optimism that rising immunity levels in children will keep infections at bay even as schools go back.
Meanwhile, latest hospital data shows there were 1,002 UK hospitalisations on October 29, which marked the fifth day in a row of four-digit admissions.
The DOH said there were also 293 deaths registered across Britain today, the highest number since March 3, when there were 315.
But today’s tally ‘potentially’ includes two days’ worth of data from England, the department said, which will have skewed the toll. Hospital admissions and deaths are both lagging indicators.
The Government’s Covid dashboard shows that more than 50million Britons have now had their first Covid vaccine. Around 45.7m have had two and 8.4m have had their booster third dose.
But top experts warned today that Britain’s Covid booster jab drive is still going too slowly, despite NHS England boasting that the roll-out had hit a record high last week.
Official figures show 1.6million people in England were given their third dose last week, a slight improvement for the sluggish drive that was only reaching 1.1million every seven days at the start of October.
But critics said uptake was still too low, with 7.2million vulnerable people still waiting for their booster. They warned it could take until mid-January to give the entire eligible cohort of 32million their vital immunity boost.
Cambridge University epidemiologist Dr Raghib Ali said the lagging rate was what ‘concerned him most’ heading into winter, adding: ‘The seven-day average is too low and not rising as expected.’
UK-wide Department of Health data shows the average number of boosters being dished out each day has fallen by a tenth from around 300,000 a day in the week to October 24, to 270,000 last week.
Ministers said a quick and successful booster campaign is paramount to the country avoiding reverting to ‘Plan B’ restrictions this winter, with face masks, vaccine passports and work from home guidance to be reimposed if the NHS comes under unsustainable pressure.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, told a gloomy press conference last month that ‘if not enough people get their booster jabs’ then ‘it would of course make it more likely we’re going to have more restrictions’.
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