EXCLUSIVE A professor of immunology has said current UK figures on infections and deaths show there is still concern and insisted we have a duty to ourselves and our families to continue to be careful despite the relaxation of rules
Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
The UK population must now take over responsibility to protect ourselves from Covid despite what the government says, an expert has said.
Boris Johnson yesterday announced a shock plan to end all Covid self-isolation laws in England in just two weeks’ time – around a month earlier than planned, as the UK recorded 276 Covid deaths on Wednesday.
The announcement came after it emerged last month a new sub-variant of Omicron had been found, the BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant.
Denis Kinane, a world leading immunologist and founding scientist at Cignpost diagnostics, said estimates show the BA.2 variant to be 33% more infectious than the first Omicron strain though it has not been deemed any more dangerous.
Mr Kinane predicts that will eventually mean the new sub-variant will become the dominant one.
The Professor of immunology at Bern University in Switzerland said current data on infections and deaths show there is still concern and insisted we have a duty to ourselves and our families to continue to be careful despite what the government says.
He said he understands the government’s position and why it would look at restrictions – but said the public now needs to reduce to exercise its own caution.
Speaking to The Mirror, Prof Kinane said: “My concern is that we still have daily deaths, essentially [the same number as] an airplane crash every day.
“The numbers are stabilizing but there’s still a high proportion of people infected.
“I think we should be concerned about the level of deaths with Covid and we have to keep our eyes open to changes and and keep vigilant.”
Britain recorded another 68,214 coronavirus cases yesterday, while another 276 people died with the virus.
Around one in 19 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to February 5, or 2.8 million people – up from one in 20, or 2.6 million people, in the week to January 29.
Prof Kinane said that we need to observe precaution no matter what the government says.
“I think the government is in a difficult position – they have to have a balanced view of things.
“The government has got to be concerned about the economy and people’s jobs and I understand that.
“A lot of people, despite the government reducing restrictions in the last few months, have still worn masks and are not attending conferences of parties.
“We have got to continue wearing masks. We have got to continue to be careful – it’s on us not the government in a sense.”
He also pointed out that while the relaxation of restrictions might be fine for a lot of the population, “we still have a lot of vulnerable and unvaccinated people.”
“This is still a deadly virus,” he said.
The professor compared the UK’s response to the Delta variant, when the government was initially criticized for people coming into the country from India, to the fast booster response when Omicron emerged.
He said the evidence shows we should take precautions and be vigilant of any potential new variants.
“We need to be surveillant of any new strains coming through,” he said, adding that we need a testing system in place to detect any potential new variants and if they are more dangerous.
Professor Kinane said in particular with travel we need to keep watch of any new variants coming into the country.
“I don’t know how we do that aside from testing people coming into the country,” he said, after the UK government revealed that from 4am on Friday 11, fully vaccinated arrivals in the UK will no longer be required to take PCR tests .
Mr Kinane said: “I think we will get to a point where infection and testing will diminish – but I don’t think we are there yet.”
Mr Kinane said there were high proportions of the Omicron sub-variant in Denmark, India and South Africa.
“In the UK there’s an estimate based on the sequenced samples that one in six is BA.2,” he said.
But he said there are no real differences in terms of the symptoms and highlighted symptoms depend on an individual’s physiology and genetics.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.